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NBC’s digital payments to go live in next few months

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Dubbed ‘Project Bakong’, National Bank of Cambodia director-general Chea Serey says the scheme already has the support of 11 banks, with many more expected to join soon. nbc

NBC’s digital payments to go live in next few months

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) will launch a Blockchain-based, peer-to-peer payment and money transfer platform in the next few months, its director-general Chea Serey told The Post on Monday.

Dubbed ‘Project Bakong’, the scheme already has the support of 11 banks, with many more expected to join soon, Serey said.

Bakong, essentially a quasi-form of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), was launched on a trial basis in July and will be operational within the present fiscal quarter, she said.

Serey described the system as “the national payment gateway for Cambodia”.

“Bakong will play a central role in bringing all players in the payment space in Cambodia under the same platform, making it easy for end-users to pay each other regardless of the institutions they bank with.

“Eventually, we hope to allow cross border payment through the Bakong system too,” she said.

Phnom Penh Commercial Bank (PPCBank) president Shin Chang Moo told The Post on Monday that his bank is deploying the system at all branches.

“We are in the final stages of the deployment. It has taken a little longer than expected because we were ensuring that the system is as useful and convenient for the users as possible. We will offer the service as soon as it launches,” he said.

Chang Moo said compared to conventional payment and transfer methods – such as credit and debit cards, and mobile platforms – Bakong is cheaper and more convenient.

“Some are concerned that banks might lose some of its market share to Bakong. This is partly true, at least in the short term.

“However, our industry is relatively immature in terms of the number of service providers and users. Bakong will eventually create financially inclusive ecosystems that all the stakeholders in the industry can benefit from,” he said.

Unlike most cryptocurrencies, which are decentralised, Bakong is a closed system backed by banking authorities. “There is zero possibility of speculation using Bakong,” Chang Moo said.

“The Bakong wallet is currently linked to users’ bank accounts to exchange with hard currency. All the transactions will be done on a real-time basis with the records stored safely at NBC.

Chang Moo said Bakong will help set a national standard for QR code usage, which will be integrated with Asean equivalents.

“The international financial society is getting to know about Bakong and many other central banks around the world are likely to follow suit,” he added.

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