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Banks go rural for inclusive growth

Rezaul Karim | August 16, 2018 00:00:00

The country's commercial banks have made their presence significantly in the mostly unbanked rural areas in recent times.

The urban-focused banks are going rural to help the government foster financial inclusion by bringing the people under coverage, sources said.

"The banking authorities are fast making their presence. This has been possible mainly due to efforts by the central bank," a senior banker said.

According to the Bangladesh Bank (BB), both privately-run and state-owned banks have opened a total of 9,981 branches across the country till May 2018.

Of the banks, the official data showed, 5,633 were opened in rural areas and 4,348 in urban regions.

Some 2,349 state-owned commercial banks (SoCBs), 1,297 specialised banks (SBs), 1,987 private commercial banks (PCBs) opened branches in rural areas.

The total number of branches was 8,685 as of December 2013. Of them, 4,962 were in rural areas and 3,723 in urban areas, revealed the BB data.

"The central bank is trying to provide banking services to rural areas and increase financial inclusion for the sake of poverty alleviation," the banker added.

He said the banks have continued to enhance their penetration of rural areas in line with a BB guideline.

The central bank earlier introduced the guideline for bringing unbanked people under the banking network.

As per the policy, 50 per cent of the bank branches opened in a calendar year must be in rural areas.

"The authorities have put the banking sector on a sound footing. This has been possible because of the efforts made by the BB," a private banker said.

Rural banks have traditionally supported local economic development by supplying funds to local businesses.

Commercial banks' willingness to deliver agricultural and rural loans efficiently will play a pivotal role in maintaining and expanding rural economy.

An official said the banking sector is contributing to the rapid growth of the rural economy, which eventually boosts the overall national economy.

Innovations in mobile banking in addition to the commercial banks' presence have revolutionised financial transactions in rural areas, he added.

Currently, more than 80 per cent people are receiving banking services, a BB official said.

Fifty-eight are now in operations in Bangladesh, including six SoCBs, three SBs, 40 PCBs and nine foreign commercial banks (FCBs).


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