The E-Peso project, implemented by Chemonics International from March 2015 – February 2021, aimed to support a shift from a cash-intensive economy to a cash-light e-economy. USAID believed based on performance reporting that E-Peso had been successful, but was unsure whether and how its successes contributed to the shift to cash-free transactions during the pandemic. Had E-Peso’s work before the pandemic and during the first year of the pandemic contributed to the explosion in cash-free transactions?

USAID requested that CLAimDev conduct an ex-post performance evaluation of E-Peso that focused on this key question. However, after the project closed in February 2021, the E-Peso staff and many of its key counterparts moved on to other activities and agencies. The project office was closed; contact information for many staff and counterparts was outdated; and others now held senior government positions or had left the country. Despite these challenges, the evaluation team was able to collaborate with the Central Bank of the Philippines, which opened their books to give the evaluation access to the data that they needed to corroborate USAID’s hunches about the impact of E-Peso.

The evaluation found:

  • With support from E-Peso, the Central Bank of the Philippines laid the groundwork to create an interoperable payment system. This payment system was crucial to keep the financial system running during the pandemic.

  • The pandemic proved to be a major driving force in shifting payment transactions to digital payments. This shift could not have happened without the work on making the payment system interoperable that E-Peso and predecessor USAID projects supported.

  • Slow and steady growth in digital payments growth before the pandemic exploded during the pandemic, helping to keep the country on the path to its target of 50 percent of payments being digital by 2023.

  • The gains in digital payments that E-Peso’s work helped to bring about will likely be sustained, as evidenced by strong country ownership (i.e., the digitalization agenda is backed by policies, institutional road maps, strong leadership, and the Central Bank’s institutional capacity).