Lack of cash threatens Myanmar banking crisis

Queues at ATMs are formed early, often before dawn. People bring plastic chairs or chairs or rugs to lie on. As soon as the sun rises, they protect themselves with umbrellas or hug the shadows and wait.

Myanmar found itself in a shortage of cash. Because military to overthrow Aung San Suu Kyi Government In February, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs, banks put on hats to recall, and crowds gathered at the branches every day.

According to bankers, foreign observers and businessmen, the country’s central bank has not yet provided enough cash to banks to meet demand. Most spoke anonymously to the Financial Times for fear of angering the regime, which has arrested more than 5,400 people since the coup, according to the Association for the Support of Political Prisoners.

Cash fundraising is one of the brightest hints of Myanmar’s economy and banking system, although gradually reopening after a general strike following the coup, it remains fragile.

“We do not trust the military junta because they do not trust us,” said Ian, a 19-year-old writer-medical volunteer Nick, who asked not to be named. “So we have to get our money back.”

In recent days, Nicki has been withdrawing cash from the family account of KBZ, the largest bank in Myanmar, with double credit, as the bank limits its withdrawal to 200,000 Myanmar kiat ($ 120) per day.

One of the signs of the severity of the problem is the rise of the cash market, during which one person signs a bank transfer or gives a check for the paper money provided by the other at a discounted amount. For example, 9,000 pockets of cash for every 10,000 pledged pockets.

“People realize that even if they transfer money to you, it is almost impossible to cash in,” a banker told FT. “So the money in the bank is discounted.”

KBZ declined to be interviewed. However, Myanmar’s largest bank said in a written statement that most of its branches “reopened” to provide livelihoods for the people of Myanmar. “Most of the staff have returned to work to ensure that people can support their financial needs.”

Banks, like other private businesses, have been careful to choose their words since the coup to avoid the wrath of a junta or anti-junta camp. boycotts a military-controlled business, or a non-military business that is seen as pulling the stride.

Myanmar banks impose strict restrictions on ATM withdrawals via Getty Images © Sai Aung / AFP

The physical shortage of banknotes seems to be one of the causes of the cash crisis. Giesecke & Devrient, a German company that supplied raw materials and components to a Myanmar state security printer for the production of kyat bills, shut them down in late March. The company said the shutdown was in response to “ongoing violent clashes between the military and civilian population.”

It seems that the role is played by the lack of staff in the banks and the regime’s disbelief in the ability to manage the economy.

Work vacations paralyzed banking in the weeks following the coup. Bank employees and civil servants, including the Central Bank of Myanmar, went on strike, forcing many branches to close.

Most banks have reopened since April, along with factories and other businesses. Traffic has increased in the business capital of Yangon, which some say is signaling a partial economic recovery.

However, heavy cash remains scarce. Banks have tightened restrictions on ATM withdrawals and introduced symbolic systems to limit the number of customers making transactions.

According to bankers-analysts, the central bank has cash reserves in its hands, but does not provide enough to banks to meet demand. “There is some money in circulation, but not much,” said the Western diplomat in Yangon.

In Myanmar, many traded their kits for gold or dollars, both of which reached record prices after the coup.

Although the shortage of cash has not yet caused a crisis, analysts say protracted problems in raising money for business and banking can make small banks vulnerable, jeopardizing a sector that has long struggled with non-performing loans.

“Myanmar’s banking sector has been in crisis since the introduction of new regulations in 2016, when the real estate market collapsed almost simultaneously,” said historian and author Tant Main-U.

“Since the coup, the banking crisis has been exacerbated by the February-March strikes, the accumulation of cash at home, the inability or unwillingness of the central bank to provide the necessary liquidity.”

Commenting on the publication of the Global New Light government in Myanmar, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing mentioned cash running. He said the regime aimed to “expose those who hold large sums of money”.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government, formed by supporters of An San Suu Kyi, says the junta is to blame. “The people of Myanmar do not believe that the junta has the right to govern the country’s economy.” Tin House Naing, said the Minister of Finance in the parallel administration.

“We can not blame them for wanting to ensure that their savings do not disappear.”

Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

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