After much debate and deliberation over the last two and a half years, the government is finally opening the door for PayPal, the most popular online money transfer service in the world, to launch its operations in Bangladesh.
Prime Minister's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy will inaugurate the service on October 19, the second day of the ICT Expo 2017, said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for the ICT Division.
“It is a great news for us, especially the freelancers who will now be able to get their foreign currency earnings transferred anywhere in the country within 40 minutes,” he told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday afternoon.
PayPal users will be able to avail the service in approximately 12,000 branches of nine banks, including Sonali Bank and Rupali Bank, Palak further said.
The process to bring PayPal into the country began in March this year. The launch was initially scheduled in April, but it was postponed as meeting all the necessary conditions – cross-checking documents, ensuring legal compliance, finalising terms and conditions, etc – took longer than expected, sources said.
Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters in April that PayPal would launch its operations in Bangladesh soon.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune yesterday, State Minister Palak said the service had been tested thoroughly since the announcement in March, and now everything was in order for PayPal to start its journey in Bangladesh.
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Market insiders believe that PayPal's arrival in Bangladesh will pave the way for hassle-free electronic fund transfer, increase access to foreign consumers and ease the influx of remittances and earnings from foreign companies.
The online payment service has enabled nearly 200 million individuals and businesses to transfer funds electronically since its launch in the US in December 1998.
The service is available in more than 200 markets around the world and enables its account holders to receive money in more than 100 currencies, withdraw funds in 56 currencies and hold PayPal account balances in 25 currencies.
In Bangladesh, PayPal will particularly be useful to around 550,000 freelancers and about 700 e-commerce websites, sources said.
At present, local freelancers have to use roundabout ways to bring home their foreign currency earnings – i.e. use someone else's accounts abroad – which are both risky and costly.
PayPal resolves this issue and makes it easier and safer for freelancers to collect their payment from foreign clients.
Furthermore, Bangladesh has also been facing much difficulty in transferring in the remittance earned through outsourcing, which will be resolved with PayPal as well, said the sources.
PayPal users' income will be considered separate from the country's remittance inflow as they will no longer be using the banks' services, the sources added.
Razib Ahmed, president of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), said PayPal would help entrepreneurs to expand their businesses by ensuring that they are easily able to receive payments for work both at home and abroad.
What the market insiders say
Abu Kahar Siddik, freelancer
The freelancers' community in Bangladesh is looking forward to having PayPal services in the country, because it offers a lot more benefits than other international online payment systems.
I usually use Payoneer and MasterCard services to collect payment from my clients abroad. Using these services is costly – cash withdrawal from an ATM booth costs me $1-3.5 in charges per transaction. PayPal, on the other hand, allows transactions free of charge; it also offers direct payment facilities.
Another issue with other payment services is that, sometimes, they will disable your account without any prior notice or explanation; they will not let you open another account on the same platform either, which creates problems with payment. PayPal does not have such issues.
Md Rezaul Islam Reza, freelancer
PayPal will be a life-saver for the freelancers in the country, opening a new avenue for us.
I have been facing problems with my payments because PayPal has not been available in Bangladesh. I use a PayPal account in the US, which is maintained by a US citizen. That account has been disabled due to some technical issues. Because of that, one of my work orders worth $1,000 is stuck. If I had a PayPal account here, I would not have faced this problem.
There are a number of benefits of having a PayPal account, for example, it will always notify you before charging account renewal fee, which the other payment services do not.
Now the question is: Will PayPal offer all its facilities in Bangladesh like it does in other countries?
Mustafa Jabbar, president, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS)
Until now, Bangladeshi freelancers have not been able to bring in their hard-earned money through proper channel due to a lack of trusted and government-approved payment gateway. PayPal is an easy, hassle-free payment method to receive money earned through freelancing. I think if it launches its operations in Bangladesh with all its features, it will help Bangladeshi freelancers to get their funds transferred home instantly, without any difficulties.
Freelancers will certainly prefer this service over banks as it takes more time for banks to release funds.
In addition, their income will be recognised separately, not as a part of the country's remittance inflow.
As the number of freelancers and e-commerce platforms keep growing every day in the country, I think the government should take steps to ensure smooth electronic transaction process for the growing e-commerce industry.
Ataur Rahman, co-founder of Amardeshamargram.com, e-commerce platform
PayPal is the best, most secured payment gateway out there for online transaction. It will help e-commerce entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to be able to draw in more consumers from foreign countries.
Currently, we use local gateways for transaction which complicates the process for the clients. PayPal will make it easy for the foreign clients to make the payments, which will help to increase our sales.
This service will bring in more freelance jobs in Bangladesh as it will attract more foreign businesses to make investment here.
Also, there are about 10 million Bangladeshi expatriates spread around the world who can be connected to the e-commerce businesses here through this service.