This first-of-its-kind initiative is aimed at driving financial inclusion in Pakistan and specifically in Punjab – the largest province in Pakistan.
This initiative will build on the learnings of a similar initiative that MasterCard rolled out in South Africa with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Since the launch in 2012, ten million active SASSA MasterCard Debit cards have been issued for biometric grant payment disbursement. Just under 22 million social grant beneficiaries have benefitted from the program and disbursement costs incurred by the South African government have been reduced by 50 per cent.
As part of this landmark agreement with MasterCard, Bank of Punjab will issue millions of payment cards to citizens, empowering the unbanked population by providing them with access to formal financial services. Currently approximately 90 per cent of the Pakistani population is unbanked. The program will also bring transparency and efficiency to key government initiatives.
The scheme was formally launched at a signing ceremony held at MasterCard's regional headquarters in Dubai between Naeemuddin Khan, President and CEO, Bank of Punjab and Raghu Malhotra, Division President, Middle East and North Africa, MasterCard.
"The costs of cash continue to increase, resulting in a negative impact on the economy. In addition, it is estimated that $16 trillion is spent in cash every year in black and informal economies around the world – cash that is untaxed and untraceable," explains Malhotra. "With this in mind, MasterCard is fully supportive of the Government of Punjab's vision to create an inclusive cashless society. The program will drive large scale financial inclusion for the people of Pakistan. We see this initiative as a catalyst to empower the population and help the government to improve transparency and efficiency".
The new platform will support five government programs including pension, payroll, education, micro-lending, and healthcare. A key part of the program is the use of biometrics to verify the identity of the recipient when using the card at merchants across the country.
"The Bank of Punjab is delighted to partner with MasterCard to bring this platform to the people of Punjab, in support of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's vision to deliver financial services to every citizen in the province, improve government services, and eliminate inefficiencies," said Naeemuddin Khan. "Cardholders will now have one safe, secure and simple way to deposit funds, receive social benefits, and pay for goods and services."
The Social Security platform is a fundamental building block in developing the smart payments ecosystem for the Punjab province. With MasterCard's global acceptance, cardholders will be able to securely transact around the world, withdraw cash from any ATM that accepts MasterCard, or engage in many other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments.