KUCHING: Several Sarawak NGOs have called on the state government to expand its initiative to provide mobile banking services in rural areas.
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner Madeline Berma applauded the Sarawak government’s effort and hoped it would increase access to financial services to those who had been excluded from traditional banking.
Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had said the state government was collaborating with Bank Negara Malaysia, Bank Simpanan Nasional and other financial institutions to expand their banking services to the rural areas.
The state government would also allocate RM1.6 million in capital expenditure for BSN to operate mobile branch services in rural areas, he added.
“All the cash aid is channelled through banks. However, people residing in rural areas have difficulty accessing bank services,” he said.
Abang Johari said the state government would help purchase vehicles equipped with ATMs and counters for mobile banking.
The mobile banking service had started operating in Pakan, Sarikei, this month. It is expected to be extended to other rural areas in Sarawak soon.
It was reported that more than 1,200 people had queued at the Pakan community hall from 6.30am to claim their financial aid.
Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said the state government is identifying those rural areas where people are facing difficulty in accessing bank services.
Berma said the state government should also consider introducing mobile banks on boats to serve other inaccessible rural areas.
She said people in most rural areas have problems with transport.
The mobile banking services should not be limited only for disbursing aid but should be extended to other financial services like savings and loans.
“Banks can send their officers to the interior once or twice in a month to provide financial and banking services,” she added.
Sibu Kenyah Uma Baha Women’s Association said there is still no banking services in Bakun Resettlement Scheme Sungai Asap although the community had been relocated there more than 20 years ago.
The people had to travel on poor roads for hours to reach the only BSN bank in Belaga, said the association’s chairman Umie Liau.
“Some villagers have travelled hours to Belaga just to find the ATM machines out of service,” she said.
She hoped there would be a permanent banking service in Bakun Resettlement Scheme Sungai Asap.
Liau proposed that mobile banking services be carried out at several centres or stations on the same day so that people do not flock to one centre.
“For example, people had to queue very long at the Pakan community hall up to the roadside even though there were several counters inside the hall,” she told FMT.
“Schools can also be used as centres to carry out this service so that the people are protected from the sun and rain. Classroom chairs could be provided to those waiting, she said. A special lane should be provided for senior citizens and pregnant women.
“The state government should also collaborate with supermarkets to form mobile supermarkets so that rural folks who received the government financial aid can purchase their basic daily needs the same day.
“This will help those from Lusong Laku, Long Urun and Long Malim who face travel times of about eight hours to Belaga.”
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