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Trust in cash remains stronger in Myanmar

Categories : Cash is trust
July 25, 2016
Tags : ATMs, Cash substitution, Payment instruments, Unbanked
Burmese population prefers to use cash and does not trust in electronic payments. Myanmar Payment Union is calling the government to promote digital transfers.
Communication Team / Equipo de Comunicación

According to World Bank statistics, less than 20% of the Burmese population uses formal banking services and holds a bank account. Indeed, very few transactions are made by electronic transfers as people prefer to use cash even when it comes to buy a car or a house. Myanmar Payment Union (MPU) is calling the government to promote digital payments and educate more people to use ATMs.

Myanmar’s first bank card was launched in 1995 by Myanmar Mayflower Bank, but the government decided to suspend the use of all credit and debit cards following the 2003 banking crisis. Eight years later, the Central Bank resolved to form the MPU from the association of 23 banks, which reported having issued 1.8 million cards up until now, usable in 1,500 ATMs and 3,000 POS terminals, as well as in Japan and China. But the majority of the population lives in remote areas and is not aware of the way a cash machine looks like.

The main challenge of a transition to a card-based system is trust. People do not rely on ATMs as telecommunications failures are extremely common in Myanmar, where only one third of households enjoy the national power grid. Many customers reported being unable to withdraw cash either because the machine was empty or out of order, forcing them to fall back  on the more traditional way of storing cash: under the bed or in the cupboard.

Banks are responding to these problems by providing their own network connections and by modernizing their equipment. The recent introduction of a new Financial Institutions Law will also help them promote electronic transactions.
U Zaw Linn Htut, CEO of MPU, declared that the greatest obstacle today is the infrastructure, but that the shift from cash to digital payments cannot succeed without the implementation of financial literacy education programs.

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