Robert Nesta Morgan, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for Information, has sought to assure the public that the Government will not force citizens to use digital currency and that cash payments will always be an option for Jamaicans who do not wish to participate in the transition to digital currency.
The assurance comes amid concerns from Opposition Leader Mark Golding that the Government’s approach to the transition to digital currency has put fear in the minds of some citizens who believe they will no longer have the option to use cash.
“The truth is that the digital currency is [going to] be an option that people can use. It cannot be mandatory. There is nothing in the law to make it mandatory at this point in time. But the way it is being sold is as if it’s imminent, and it’s [going to] replace cash in the near future, and of course, there is no preparation for that,” said Golding.
He noted that some Jamaicans do not have Wi-Fi or a bank account, and there are no preparations being made to facilitate the transition to digital.
Additionally, he said that the Central Bank issued digital currency last year, and the take-up has been slow, proving that a new approach is needed.
“The Prime Minister needs to calm down and move in a more measured way and take the people along with a full understanding that this is not going to imperil them or put them at some kind of disadvantage,” stressed the Opposition Leader.
Digital currency an option
Digital currency is any currency, money, or money-like asset that is primarily managed, stored, or exchanged in electronic form through the Internet.
A phased rollout of JAM-DEX, Jamaica’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) took place last year, and citizens were encouraged to use the currency.
However, as of February 18, 2023, the total number of JAM-DEX customers onboarded by Lynk was 190,000, compared to Jamaica’s estimated population of three million.
In response to the concerns posed by the Opposition Leader, Minister Morgan said it is not the intention of the Government to force anyone to use digital currency.
“Nobody is forcing anyone to use a digital currency. Just like you have Bitcoin…Jamaica has a digital currency where people can use JAM-DEX and use [their] phone to pay [for] things. But cash is always going to be a part of our society. There is no plan by the Government to force anyone to use digital currency,” he clarified.
He noted that digital currency is accepted in a lot of countries, particularly Rwanda, where citizens use the currency to shop at local stores and supermarkets. However, he said that Jamaica is far from achieving this use of digital currency.
“Jamaica is nowhere near that. And as a matter of fact, cash is always [going to] be a part of our society. So the people who are asking, are we going to force you to take a digital currency? The answer is no,” Morgan stressed.
“Money is a concept, and the physical money [that] you use, is a manifestation of the concept. When you put a million dollars in your bank account, the bank doesn’t necessarily have one million dollars in the bank put down waiting for you. When you transfer half a million dollars, or $50,000 from your account to somebody else account. The bank doesn’t necessarily take up $50,000 and drive down to the next bank to give that money. That is a digital transaction. It is a recording of a value that exists in your account. It is the same thing with digital currency,” the minister explained.
He then cautioned users of the popular social media app Tik Tok to stop spreading rumors and scaring the population into thinking Jamaica will no longer use cash to complete transactions.
Morgan also urged Jamaicans to do research on digital currency so that they can make an informed decision about whether to make the transition.
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