Online cash transfers for fishermen: A historical change

The Maldives is an archipelago consisting of over a thousand small islands surrounded by white sandy beaches, blue lagoons, seas, and 99% of its territory is the ocean. Therefore, its citizen's only source of natural resources is linked to these sandy beaches, the blue lagoons and seas. For centuries, the nation was surviving on the fisheries sector. Fish used to be and even today is a staple and part of the daily diet of the country's people.

Over the past 40 or more years, with the mechanisation of fishing vessels and the introduction of the tourism sector, the fishing sector has advanced. However, its contribution to the GDP has declined with the establishment of tourism. The most significant developments of the fisheries sector were on the vessels and the other technical gadgets that are used in the industry. However, even with these developments, there was one thing that had not changed until recently. That is, the way the fishermen were paid: up until now, fishers were paid in physical cash.

This mode of payment poses several challenges for the government's fisheries company, MICFO in paying the fishermen who trade with the company. MIFCO is an establishment that runs a canning factory and exports fish products. Every month, at the time of payment, the company faces several difficulties to ensure the due payments safely reach its rightful recipients.

After withdrawing cash from the bank, MIFCO pursues a challenging undertaking. The process had put the heads of the company in daunting situations until the fishermen in various parts of the country receive their payment. Over the years, millions had been lost or were robbed en route before it reached the fishermen it was intended for.

Following the changes and the measures that have been brought to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the mode of payment for fishermen has also changed. Now, the payment mode has caught up to modern technology and payments are being made via online cash transfers.

“This is a noteworthy positive change. Now we transfer payment to the fishermen’s accounts rather than handing over physical cash. The payments are transferred after varying the figures sent by collection points at the head office", said MIFCO’s MD Ismail Fauzy.

Typically, payments are made once a week. Sometimes the fishermen had to make a trip to the collection points just to receive the payment. However, with the new change, that issue has been solved.

The new process will be an easy mechanism for the fisherman as they will no longer have to face the burden of depositing their cash at the bank, usually at another island, and the risk of losing the money will be lesser.

After the escalation of COVID-19 in the Maldives, health experts have been advising to switch to online transactions whenever possible. Currency notes pass through dozens of hands with a potential risk of spreading the virus.

“This is a vital step taken toward the safety and security especially in the current situation,” said MD Ismail

To encourage anglers to deposit cash, the national bank, BML had introduced a special card linked to an online portals. The card can be used as a cash card, and can be used overseas as well. MD Ismail said the card is currently being used by eight fishing vessels.