The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications last week proposed the creation of a network of postal banks to enhance access to banking and financial services across the country.
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Speaking on Friday during a meeting of the Council of Ministers, Minister Tram Iv Tek said a postal banking system would particularly benefit people living in rural areas.
“A postal bank will help people in the countryside, who will no longer have to come to the capital or provincial towns [for banking services],” he said, noting that the idea of creating the bank came to him during a trip to China, a country that uses postal banks.
“Our people will save money through postal banking. Postal banks can also offer insurance services, allowing the government to help people with businesses that have gone bankrupt,” he said.
Through these banks, the government could provide low-interest loans, he said. “We could offer loans at a 3 percent interest rate. This is what they have done in countries like South Korea and Thailand.”
Mr Iv Tek said adopting the postal banking system nationwide will be easy because his ministry already uses postal banks.
The minister said Cambodia has 54 post offices. 36 of these are currently running a profit.
In response to the idea, Chea Chanto, the governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Cambodians like to keep savings at home or with family members rather than in banks but said that Mr Iv Tek’s idea will be considered.
NBC director general Chea Serey yesterday told Khmer Times via email that it could be a viable initiative if the postal banks are able to provide low-interest loans.
“In term of pricing, Cambodia put an interest cap of 1.5 percent per month on microfinance institutions’ lending. If a bank, or any MFI, can provide lower interest rates and more efficient services, then it is a welcomed initiative,” she said.
She said that a similar system was in place in the past. “In the old days post offices were spread across the country. Because banks couldn’t reach remote areas, post offices played the role of bank branches and provided banking services.”
Ms Serey noted that Cambodia has more than 70 licensed MFIs and more than 200 rural credit institutions providing banking services across the country.
“Combined with banking institutions, we have no less than 2,000 MFIs and banking branches providing banking services to people in rural areas, in addition to remote banking services such as internet and mobile banking services,” she added.