Banks seek permission to disburse grants

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu

Mar 9, 2016-Seven commercial banks have sought permission from the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to disburse Rs200,000—a grant to be given to earthquake victims by the government to rebuild their houses. 

Citizens Bank, Global IME Bank, Nepal Investment Bank (NIBL), NMB Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB), Sanima Bank and Siddhartha Bank have proposed NRA to open 173 branchless banking points in 14 earthquake-affected districts including Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. 

The banks, through Nepal Bankers’ Association, have proposed NRA to charge Rs1050 per beneficiary to disburse the grant amount in three installments. NRA officials have said that they are yet to finalise the deal and award the contract to the aforementioned seven banks. 

“We are yet to reach a final agreement regarding the modality of the grant distribution and partners,” said Suresh Adhikari, spokesperson of NRA. “A detailed study of the distribution model will still be necessary before entering into an agreement.” 

However, in case of Dolakha, the Authority has made an agreement with Sakchyam, an access-to-finance initiative funded by UK Aid and two banks—NIBL and RBB—to start the pilot project. “We will first see the result of Dolakha and if we are satisfied with their work, NRA will allow Sakchyam and the banks to start work in other districts,” added Adhikari. “If we don’t find the process satisfactory we might seek support from other partners.”

NIBL and RBB have already started collecting information of the beneficiaries in Dolakha and have pledged to disburse Rs50,000, the first installment of the grant, within a week. 

 “We have already established branchless banking point in Singati of Dolakha and started the registration process,” said Bijendra Suwal, chief information officer of NIBL. 

Although banks have asked for service charge for distributing grants, the NRA said that the beneficiaries would not be charged the levy. “Either the government or the donor partner will bear the cost of banking service,” said Adhikari. 

The banks, with support from Sakchyam, have already set up more than 110 branchless banking points in different earthquake-affected districts to provide banking services. According to Sakchyam, it is supporting 286 branchless banking openings in the Mid and Far-West and in quake-affected districts. 

“The branchless banking strategy includes the use of Point of Sale machines, mobile phones and tablets enabled through agents and extensions counter,” read the press release issued by Sakchyam.  

Published: 09-03-2016 09:05

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