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Modernizing payment systems in emerging economies

Listed author(s):
  • Listfield, Robert
  • Montes-Negret, Fernando
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    The authors address the following questions in this overview of payment systems: What is a payment system? How can efficient systems contribute to the development of modern, market-based financial institutions and markets? What elements are necessary for payment systems to operate efficiently? What are the operational characteristics of a modern payment system? What is the World Bank approach to selected payment system initiatives, design, and development? Effective, efficient payment systems, they conclude, are vital for the economic development of emerging economies. Efficient payment systems help promote the development of commerce, enhance economic policy oversight, control the risk inherent in moving large values, and reduce the financial, capital and human resources devoted to the transfer of payments. Many emerging economies lack the financial and technical resources to develop such systems. Many turn technical resources to develop such systems. Many turn to the World Bank and other international agencies for assistance. Unfortunately, some believe that the entire solution for an effective payment system rests in obtaining modern computer hardware and believe the World Bank's sole contribution is to finance hardware costs. Hardware procurement alone will not solve problems of payment systems. These countries need organizational plans and structure for national payment systems before they spend money on computer equipment. They often lack the expertise to design and operate modern payment systems, so they may need technical assistance from financial experts before they invest in systems development. The design of a new payment system should be kept simple. Many emerging economies lack the infrastructure and banking sophistication to leapfrog from basic to state-of-the-art payment systems. The first task is to fix the most serious problems. The second is to upgrade the current systems incrementally, to meet basic standards of timeliness, security, and reliability. As these improvements are made, the countries can turn their attention to long-term, advanced solutions. Each country's payments system is unique. To simply import another country's system without adjusting for the target country's geography, infrastructure, banking and legal structures, culture, and needs could lead to suboptimal solutions. Development of the system should follow a disciplined plan for defining the needs of users and for organizing the project team and project goals.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1336.

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    Date of creation: 31 Aug 1994
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1336
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