Uptake of payment systems registers strong growth in Oman

The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) says it is continuing to modernise the nation’s payment systems — an initiative that is fuelling a strong uptake of services offered by this expanding infrastructure.
For example, OmanNet — a national switch platform that routes automated teller machine (ATM) and point of sale (POS) transactions within Oman and the GCCNET countries — has registered a 236 per cent increase in transactions over the past four years, according to a high-level official of the apex bank.
Volumes have surged from 24.6 million transactions in 2014 to 82.4 million transactions in 2018, said Dr Qais Issa Mohammed al Yahyai, Executive Vice- President — Central Bank of Oman.
Likewise, the Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment system registered a 124 per cent increase in transactions over the same period, while volumes handled by the Electronic Cheque Clearing System jumped 23 per cent.
The official made the revelations in a keynote presentation at the inauguration of the Oman Islamic Fintech Forum (OiFF2019) at the Sheraton Oman Hotel on June 26. The daylong event, organised by Elmangos — an Istanbul-based global business events producer and consultancy firm — focused on the potential of Islamic fintech in developing the Islamic finance industry and improving financial inclusion.
“(The Central Bank of Oman has) taken several initiatives to ensure the provision of an efficient and secure payment and settlement system in the Sultanate,” said Dr Al Yahyai. “After the enactment of the National Payment Systems Law in 2018 —which provides a legal backing to payment system activities — a second regulation has been prepared that includes detailed provisions about licensing of payment operators and payment service providers, as well as approving systems participants and agents. It also includes provisions related to the usage of electronic money in the country and promoting the usage of direct debit services.”
The apex bank, he said, is also in the process of replacing the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system aimed at supporting automated credit services, payments on a 24×7 basis, and integration with regional RTGS systems.
Significantly, the CBO has also implemented a mobile payment clearing and switching system (MPCSS) that effectively sets up a mobile payments related platform in the Sultanate. The initiative will serve as an “alternate platform for
affordable, safe and convenient P2P and B2B payments via mobile number and QR code”, he said.
“Similarly, we have simplified the KYC (Know Your Customer) policy for electronic customers’ onboarding for certain low risk/lower limit financial products like e-wallet and prepaid cards, providing a significant boost to bring the unbanked population in the country into the payments ecosystem.
“As a result of these initiatives, the core National Payment System Infrastructure — namely RTGS, ACH, Electronic Cheque Clearing, MPCSS, and ATM/POS Switch — including the ePayment Gateway —continued to exhibit significant growth in the past few years in terms of volume and value,” Dr Al Yahyai added.