There’s no doubt that one of the “side effects” of the COVID-19 pandemic is the explosion of digital payment systems, triggering the growth of the so-called “cashless economy.”
A 2022 study by a leading credit card firm shows Filipinos quickly adapting to cashless payment options such as mobile wallets. That same report noted that 60 percent of Filipinos now carry less cash in their wallets, while 84 percent have “tried” going cashless – most likely due to its convenience, especially with the lockdowns and the restrictions imposed on most economic activities.
However, it has been noted that one sector has been increasingly left behind in this transition to a cashless economy: the so-called “informal” economic sector, which includes market and sidewalk vendors as well as transportation operators such as tricycle and jeepney drivers.
A 2019 study commissioned by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that "informal businesses, forming about 85 percent of all supplier payments by volume, rely solely on cash.
Recently, the BSP, in cooperation with the city government of Calamba, launched the Paleng-QR PH Plus, the first of its kind in the province of Laguna. This program aims to encourage the widespread use of cashless payments in the informal economy.
The BSP, however, has acknowledged that the push for a “cashless” or even “cash-lite” economy in the informal sector presents a big challenge. That same 2019 study noted such problems, including the “high” costs of hardware that can accept cashless payments, the low demand for digital payments from consumers, and the ever-present problem of poor Internet connectivity.
This issue has parallels with the controversial program to modernize public vehicles, with the same underlying mindset that the government should follow. In the rush to catch up with the times, we have to ensure that those who are at the bottom rung shouldn’t be pushed out of their livelihood.
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