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CBO working to enable direct debit, 24x7 fund transfers

Digital society: Central Bank of Oman to launch new e-payment initiatives in 2022
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Muscat: A number of measures to support the roll-out of e-payment initiatives are planned for launch this year, according to the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) in line with its broader strategy to advance the digitalisation of payment transactions and entrench the growth of a digital economy in the Sultanate of Oman.

These initiatives, the introduction of which were accelerated during the pandemic starting in 2020, include plans for a direct debit scheme in place of cheque-based recurring payments, as well as a 24x7 fund transfer system between individuals and from individuals to businesses.

“The digitalisation of payment systems is the key initiative towards achieving the objective of inclusive digital society in the Sultanate,” said the country’s apex bank. “Digitalisation of payment systems will help providing affordable and accessible payment services that paves the way to achieve inclusive financial system in the country,” it stated in its newly published 2020 Annual Report.

Notable is the planned introduction of the direct debit instrument – billed as an “alternative secure payment option” that will help make redundant the current system of issuing cheques for recurring payments of rent instalments, loan EMIs, monthly or quarterly utility bills, and so on.

Additionally, the Central Bank is currently upgrading the real time gross settlement (RTGS) system – the centerpiece of the country’s national payments system infrastructure – to enable its operation 24x7. The upgrade will also enable enhanced liquidity management and better gridlock resolution, according to the CBO. Its planned integration with the RTGS system of the GCC will also facilitate cross-border payments to recipients in the Gulf states.

At the same time, the automated clearing house (ACH) will be operated round-the-clock to facilitate affordable fund transfers between person-to-person or person-to-business, paving the way for instant credit services, the Central Bank noted.

In other initiatives being weighed by the CBO, a new countrywide electronic bill presentment and payment platform is proposed to be introduced. Additionally, the Central Bank is exploring the viability of hiving off the operations of retail payment systems to a separate entity. Furthermore, to facilitate cross-border remittances, interconnections with various payment systems globally are envisaged as well.

Besides, as reported earlier by the Observer, the Central Bank is preparing to roll out the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) system in the Sultanate of Oman – a move that will help speed up electronic verification of bank accounts when making electronic payments and reduce the risk of errors in bank account numbers.

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