The ENDS justify the means
Editor's WriteWednesday, March 31, 2021
The roll-out of a payment tool that can be used by not just established businesses, but also street vendors reminds us how the ends may justify the means. It is an intentional pun on the introduction of ENDS, an app to let money pass electronically between the customer and the vendor. As Prime Minister Andrew Holness put it, the ENDS would be fully inclusive and would “enable the smallest operator — the vendor, the jerk chicken man, your favourite fish vendor — to participate”.
The ordering app brings a level of sophistication to street transactions and safety to a group of people who face the possible threat of robbery as they try to make ends meet. It is also one more step in bringing many people without bank accounts into the financial sphere. These vendors would handle less cash and should be happy to know that all their earnings sit safely in the bank, accessible with a swipe.
This partnership between the Government and WiPay is one more step in the right direction, forced in many ways by the pandemic. More and more activities are taking place online, and smartphones have become an easy and safe way to do business in both the public and private sectors.
The ENDS facility comes to our market as similar transactions roll-out across the Eastern Caribbean. Today, in partnership with BITT, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is holding an official launch across several member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to introduce a digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar. This follows Grenada's first such transaction a few weeks ago.
We look forward to a similar event as the Bank of Jamaica further entrenches its new independence by moving from the sandbox to the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) next year, using the Jamaican digital dollar to transact business.
We also note the prime minister's claim, when getting the vaccine to protect him from COVID-19, that NIDS — the proposed national identification system — would have led to greater efficiency in the vaccination programme. The thrust of his argument is that, at a time of greater use of digital tools, we are still using time-consuming methods to keep track of vaccinations. So far, the Opposition has not jumped on him as they did in Parliament when he suggested that stimulus payments by the Ministry of Finance would have been handled more expeditiously if NIDS were in place. The truth is that the prime minister should seize every opportunity to push his revamped version of NIDS and work to address the concerns which led to court action and stymied its original implementation.
We could learn from the US Government's machinery which delivered stimulus payments to eligible people only days after President Joe Biden signed the Bill passed earlier in their Congress. That, too, is a form of NIDS, built on a foundation of technology. Prime Minister Holness should not be reluctant to push for speedy implementation of NIDS. After all, the ENDS surely justify the means.
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