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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        13  May 2011

Microfinance increases in Cambodia

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Commercial banks in Cambodia said Thursday they welcome a larger role for microfinance institutions (MFI) in thecountry, following an announcement that the National Bank of Cambodia had granted a deposit licence to VisionFund Cambodia.

VisionFund is at least the seventh MFI to receive a deposit licence, and has announced interest rates on certain deposits as high as 10 percent – higher than what many commercial banks offer in Cambodia.

But commercial banking officials say MFIs target different markets, and offer a way to extend banking to Cambodia’s large unbanked population.

ACLEDA Bank President In Channy said he applauded the decision to grant deposit licences to MFIs.

“If more MFIs can receive deposit taking licenses from the NBC, it means they can increase the flow of money into the financial system.”

Rather than people storing money at home, it could be put to use in loans, which generate revenue, he said.

“It is good for the whole industry, because MFIs have a lot of branches at the grassroots level, which can broadly mobilise funds.”

Although ACLEDA has the largest network of branches in Cambodia, In Channy downplayed competition concerns, claiming increased choice was important for customers.

An NBC prakas, on licensing of microfinance deposit-taking institutions, requires the institution to have minimum paid-up capital equal to 10 billion riel (US$2.4 million), along with strong financial conditions and sound management.

So far, at least seven MFIs have received deposit licences - Amret, Sathapana, Hattha Kaksekar, AMK, Credit, Prasac and now Vision Fund, according to Cambodian Microfinance Association Chairman Chea Phalarin.

He said it was important to build customers’ confidence to increase deposits at MFIs, adding they were already on the upswing.

Competition among MFIs was starting to grow, he said.

“The more competition, the more improvements the sector tries. The more competition, the more benefits customers receive,” he said.

Canadia Bank Vice President Dieter Billmeier also said he encourage more MFIs to upgrade their businesses.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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