Thailand prepares for September launch of e-payments

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Thailand’s planned introduction of a national electronic payments (e-payments) system this September will benefit both consumers and business, according to a member of the national e-payment panel.

Subcommittee member Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, who is chief executive (CEO) of the e-commerce specialist Ascend Group, said the Cabinet-approved master plan for the national e-payment would increase the financial system’s transparency and efficiency while helping the government collect more taxes.

The national e-payment committee, headed by Thailand’s deputy premier Somkid Jatusripitak, aims to move the economy towards a digital future and reduce reliance on cash. It believes that when fully implemented, the national e-payments system will advance Thailand’s financial infrastructure by five to 10 years,

The first “Any ID” service is scheduled for a September launch. When the e-payment system is fully operational in 2017, the estimated annual cost-savings for banks and businesses will be around Baht (THB) 75bn (£1.5bn/US$2.12bn).

Thai consumers, especially those in remote areas, will benefit from easier access to financial services via their mobile phones. Each person will have a 13-digit ID number for money transfers, bill payments and other transactions.

The Any ID programme, which also covers mobile phone numbers and electronic purses, is also expected to boost government transparency and provide financial assistance to low-income earners while increasing the collection of taxes that include value-added and withholding.

Punnamas said consumers use the Any ID feature to pay utility bills, among others, as the Thai Bankers Association (TBA) was developing a common electronic platform for all participating bank and non-bank entities to provide more convenient payment alternatives.

The government would also use it to introduce efficiencies to healthcare, transport and other services.

“At present, cash still accounts for more than 90% of all financial transactions and payments in Thailand. There are a lot of hidden costs in using cash. The fees on cash management are around 2%-3%,” he said.

“Sweden has announced it aims to be a 100% cashless society by turning to use digital instead of physical money. If we’re successful in implementing the national e-payment system, we’ll be 5-10 years ahead [of where we would otherwise be] in terms of the financial and payment infrastructure.”

Punnamas, who is also president of the Thai E-Commerce Association, said the group had 19 member companies which provided digital payment services, including telecoms, social media and payment businesses.

It is expected that the development of nationwide 4G telecom services this year will further boost e-payments and e-commerce as the Internet connection on mobile phones will be around five times faster than current 3G services. At present, 45% of Thailand’s population has a 3G Internet connection.

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