The idea of establishing a regional payment initiative in the SAARC region was originated at the SAARCFINANCE Conference on ‘Towards a Regional Payment Group’ held at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) in July 2007. The Governors of the SAARCFINANCE Group approved the proposal for establishing a SAARC Payments Initiative (SPI) at its meeting held in Washington in October 2007. The SPI was launched on 28 March 2008 with inauguration ceremony held at the CBSL. The SAARC Payments Council (SPC) the apex governing body of the SPI convened its first meeting immediately after the inauguration ceremony.
The SPI is primarily aimed at strengthening the existing payment and settlement systems (PSS) in the SAARC region to facilitate an efficient, robust, stable and convergent PSS for SAARC region, that benchmark with international standards. It’s vision and mission will be accomplished by, facilitating the implementation of comprehensive reforms in domestic as well as cross border PSS through close coordination and cooperation.
The SPC acts as forum of SAARC countries to:
- collectively evolve a high level strategic direction and implement a road map for PSS reforms of individual member countries; and
- standardize PSS to create a level playing field in promoting regional harmonization and integration of domestic PSS of member countries for the development of intra regional PSS.
- The SPC comprises representatives nominated by the Governors of the SAARCFINANCE group. The SPC meets bi-annually in a member country. Initially, the SPI Secretariat was located at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka for a period of 3 years. In February 2012, the Secretariat has been moved to the State Bank of Pakistan for a period of two years to assist the SPC in coordinating the work.
The SPC is undertaking number of activities/ measures to implement action points of the Road Map broadly including:
- Carryout stocktaking exercise of Payment and Settlement Systems (PSS) in the region on a comparable basis to understand the current status of the PSS in each member country;
- Assess the volume of cross border remittance payments in member countries;
- Initiate to set up a National Payment Council (NPC)/ Committee in each member country, where such a committee does not currently exist;
- Conduct conferences/ seminars; publish SAARC Payments Bulletin and its own website to convey the developments in PSS in the SRRAC region and its future endeavors; and
- Developing Payment System Matrix (PSM) consists of member countries important payment systems electronic mechanisms, instruments and settlement mechanisms etc. in order to help member countries to better understand while communicating with each other and to bring their internal systems and procedures at par.
The SAARC Payments Initiative (SPI) is a regional forum created by central banks/ monetary authorities of SAARCFINANCE Group to have common understanding and cooperation to help each other to move forward in reforming their national payment and settlement systems (PSS) and also to establish an appropriate regional payment system that facilitates trade and investment in the region.
The Governors of the SAARCFINANCE Group approved the proposal for establishing a SAARC Payments Initiative (SPI) at its 16th meetings held in Washington in October 2007. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka Inaugurated the SAARC Payments Initiative (SPI) on 28 March, 2008 at its John Exter International Conference Hall.
The launching of the SPI was a historic event due to a number of reasons:1. First, the national payment and settlement system (PSS) reforms to have a regional forum under the SPI for SAARC countries to help and learn from each other.
2. Second, the SPI is to provide an effective institutional arrangement for the SAARCFINANCE Group to achieve one of its key policy objectives, i.e. working towards an efficient payment system mechanism to promote trade and investment in the region.
3. Third, with the establishment of the SPI, the SAARC region central banks get an opportunity to become a regional partner of the global payment system community and upgrade the region’s payment systems to international standards.
SAARC Payments Council
As decided at the 10th SPC meeting held on 28 November 2011
1. Strive to benchmark the payment and settlement systems operating in the SAARC countries to international standards for promoting interoperability, efficiency, transparency, flexibility, legitimacy and security.
2. Promoting electronic and other modes of funds transfers to facilitate financial inclusion.
3. Establish an oversight framework to ensure safe and efficient payment and settlement systems to promote public confidence.
4. Develop a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for e-payments specially on e-transaction processing, consumer protection, risk on fraudulence activities and acceptance of electronic documents as evidence in legal proceedings.
5. Initiate policies and procedures geared towards adoption of e-payments in the Government/public sector to promote efficiency and e-governance.
6. Establish a regional level arrangement to facilitate cost effective cross-border remittance system.
7. Provide technical support and assistance to each other.
8. Member countries may regularly exchange ideas and expertise to learn from each other’s experience.
9. Promote regional co-operation in developing and promoting safe and secure payment and settlement systems to reduce dependency on cash.
“Converging to internationally recognized benchmark for efficient and safe electronic payment and settlement system infrastructure to cater to the emerging needs of the region.”
“Collaborate and assist in implementing enhanced and cost effective use of electronic banking and payment systems as recognized in the statement of common objectives.”