Cambodia's central bank calls for cashless payments to beat COVID-19

A vendor sprays hand sanitiser on bank notes to disinfect them after receiving payment for a purchase of face masks from a customer along a street in Phnom Penh on March 31, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

PHNOM PENH-- The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), also known as the country's Central Bank, on Monday urged customers and retailers to make use of e-wallets and apps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Southeast Asian nation has been enduring the third wave of COVID-19 community transmission since Feb. 20. The country reported a daily record of 556 COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the national case tally to 25,761, with 179 deaths and 18,359 recoveries.

"Using digital banking could help reduce the number of COVID-19 transmission by lessening the need for person-to-person transactions," the NBC said in a press statement.

NBC is also encouraging the country's major banks and institutions to provide incentives to consumers and businesses who choose cashless transactions over those involving banknotes.

"As the regulator in banking sector in Cambodia, it is vital that we work with the industry as part of our concerted national effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic," NBC's director-general Chea Serey said.

 "This is why we are encouraging all Cambodians to use e-wallets and payment platforms such as Bakong because they minimize contact and risk," she added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged caution when handling banknotes and advises people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling money, especially when touching or eating food, the statement said.

"While we realize that many Cambodians prefer to conduct their transactions in person and often in cash, we would like retailers and customers to become more used to a cashless life and for the payment platforms to do their best to educate and attract people to their apps," Serey said. "Digital transactions are now the new normal."

Last year, the NBC launched Cambodia's only integrated payment system, Bakong, that allows customers to do everything-e-wallets, mobile payments, online banking and financial applications-all in one place.

NBC's Bakong Pay App connects the country's 23 major financial institutions including banks and mobile payment service providers, allowing consumers and institutions far more flexibility and efficiency in their digital transactions.

"With its mandate to promote financial inclusion throughout Cambodia, NBC has been at the forefront of the promotion of digital and electronic payment services," the statement said. "More than 59 percent of Cambodians currently conduct their payment transactions online."

Serey said digital payment platforms are one of the country's most effective tools for ensuring that all segments of society have access to banks and banking.

 "Now, the safety of our population in the face of COVID-19 gives the NBC and other financial institutions another incentive to promote a cashless society," she said. 


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