The Central Bank of Jamacia recently announced that it would be launching its central bank digital currency (CBDC), dubbed the Jamaican Digital Exchange, or Jam-Dex, in the first quarter of 2022. According to the Jamaican government, the national digital currency will help to lower transaction costs while allowing the unbanked to access financial services.

It is estimated that over 17% of Jamaicans are unbanked, but it is feared that many more are underbanked. This is largely due to systemic financial sector impediments. High transaction costs, in particular, are a huge limitation. Consequently, many Jamaicans believe that banks are a preserve of the rich.

That said, internet penetration in Jamaica boasts impressively at over 55%, while mobile phone usage is at 100%. The Jamaican government is banking on these positive technological dynamics to catalyze the adoption of its national digital currency.

As things stand, the Jamaican banking sector is highly centralized. Two banks dominate over 60% of the nation’s entire banking sector. The situation has brought healthy competition and led to the compounding of retrogressive oligopoly issues such as high interest rates.

Jamaican banks have also hiked up transaction fees which “penalise depositors for having monies in the bank,” according to local Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson. The Jamaican government seeks to subvert these suppressive financial service trends by introducing the Jam-Dex digital currency. It will help devolve the country’s financial system away from the control of monopolistic banking giants.

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