Sri Lanka’s central bank boss urged temples yesterday to go hi-tech and accept electronic cash from worshippers as he blamed the custom of offering prayer money for a coin shortage.

Governor Nivard Cabraal told reporters the guardians of shrines in mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka should install a “tap-and-pray” system similar to the “tap-and-go” used for public transport in many nations.

“That way, God will also know who offered what,” Cabraal said at a press conference, at which he also asked Sri Lankans to raid their piggy banks and put coins that they have stashed away back into circulation.

As part of the same drive, Cabraal said the central bank planned to send teams to collect coins that had been donated at religious sites in exchange for banknotes.

He was also negotiating with Hindu and Buddhist temples and Christian churches in neighbouring India to recover around 30 tonnes of Sri Lankan coins offered by visiting pilgrims.

Sri Lanka has used nickel and brass to its mint coins in the past - sometimes for sums higher than their face value - and is looking to cut costs, including by using stainless steel.

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankan Buddhists make offerings at temples in India, where they believe Buddha lived more than 25 centuries ago, while thousands of minority Tamils and Christians from the island nation also visit their neighbour’s temples and churches.

Now Sri Lanka has sent a team to work with Indian authorities to bring home tonnes of the Sri Lankan rupees from the places of worship.

“Monetary value won’t be so much. But if you going to mint those coins again, that will cost us a substantial sum of money. That is why we thought of bringing them back,” the central bank governor said, without elaborating on the minting cost.

Cabraal said the central bank would buy the coins at their face value, not at their metal value, and may offer additional gifts as incentives. The central bank expects to put the retrieved coins back into circulation.

Sri Lankan currency is not freely convertible in India. Sri Lankan coins are worthless for Indians unless they sell the coins for scrap metal.

Sri Lanka stands to save millions of dollars in mint charges if coins trapped in piggy banks and temples are freed up, officials said.