Major upgrade under way of Oman’s payment system

Modernisation: Upgraded Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system will be available 24×7 when it comes online in H1 2021: CBO Executive President

The Sultanate’s payment system architecture — billed as the digital backbone of the country’s financial system — is being progressively upgraded to position it among the most modern in the Arabian Gulf.
According to Tahir Salim al Amri, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), the technological enhancements will, among other benefits, modernise the wholesale payment system, boost efficiencies in mobile payments, enable the entry of new payment service providers, and facilitate person-to-person payments.
Delivering the keynote address at the 5th New Age Banking Summit 2020, an annual forum held at the Sheraton Oman Hotel on Tuesday and live-streamed to a virtual audience as well, Al Amri said a robust regulatory framework continues to provide solid underpinnings for the growth and development of the country’s payment infrastructure. At the heart of this regulatory framework is the National Payment System Law (NPSL), issued vide Royal Decree 8/2018, and backed up by executive regulations issued in early 2019.
“It paves the way for licensing new types of non-banking entities — payment services providers — which are essentially start-ups or innovators’’, said the Executive President.
“The NPSL has enabled us to issue the first payment service provider licence in Q2 2020. This has kindled interest among several start-ups who are seeking PSP (payment service provider) licences which are under our consideration right now.”
But preceding the enactment of the National Payment System Law, the launch of a Mobile Payment Clearing and Switching System (MPCSS) in July 2017 had helped to facilitate mobile payments, he pointed out.
“This is a truly interoperable and unique switching and clearing platform for person-to-person and person-to-business mobile payments via mobile numbers.
It was upgraded in 2019 to process QR code-based and merchant payments.
This will facilitate instant person-to-person payments of up to RO 500 across all participating banks. We are trying to make this channel the ultimate and affordable channel when compared to, for example, card payments’’, said Al Amri.
Significantly, the apex bank is also upgrading the existing payment infrastructure to increase the scale and efficiency of the Sultanate’s payment architecture, he noted.
“The wholesale payment system, namely, the Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), is in an advanced stage of upgrade and will be up and running 24×7 by the first half of 2021. This will make Oman the first country in the Arab Gulf region to operate the RTGS 24×7.
It will help businesses to make high-value payments round the clock, which will greatly help the payment system participants manage their funds efficiently.”
Additionally, the Central Bank is in the process of integrating the national RTGS with the GCC RTGS, besides exploring the prospects of integrating it with the Arab regional payment system — a move that would make regional payments “much more affordable’’, he said.
Another notable offering set to be rolled out by the Central Bank pertains to Debit Mandate Management. “This will facilitate automatic recurring payments that customers wish to make by pre-authorising the amount of debit — either fixed or variable — at regular intervals for a predefined period.
This will also simplify the collection of payments for corporates and companies, while also providing ample scope for the development of further innovative products’’, he added.