First News
Volume:7, Number:25
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Business & Finance 1

Mobile and Mischievous

| Monowar Hossain |

Bangladesh Bank is not comfortable with the idea of giving license to mobile companies to carry out mobile banking

The apprehension expressed by some quarters about four years ago that mobile banking service coming into effect might turn out to be an effective tool in promoting criminal activities has deepened now. Researchers in the central bank are unanimous that mobile phone operators should not be allowed to do mobile banking, as there is every likelihood that in that situation mischief might expand beyond control

Almost four years ago, when this banking system came into effect with the promise to serve people in the remote and otherwise inaccessible areas, it was appreciated by all quarters. For, till then, there was no effective system that could bring a large part of the population into banking service network addressing their problems in regard to receiving money sent them from other parts of the country or abroad. But now, those arguments banking on which mobile banking services were initiated have lost strength to a good extent.

In a recently held seminar titled “Impact of mobile fi nancial services in the SAARC region”, researchers in Bangladesh Bank expressed the view that the situation since the introduction of mobile banking service has changed a lot. Mobile banking service has tremendously benefi tted common people in the remote areas besides educating them on banking services. But, simultaneously, it has also exposed many dark sides of the service system, fi nancing criminal activities including terrorism fi nancing. Mobile telephone operators have been interested, for quite a long time, in operating mobile banking service. They, alongside the existing mobile banking operators, want to do this business. This worries the central banking authorities as they fear their control or vigilance over the banking service operators would loosen, resulting in opening of dark channels for doing mischief which might bring catastrophe in the fi nancial sector.

In this regard, their point is that at present the central bank has control over the mobile banking service operators and they are under their surveillance, whereas the mobile telephone operators are under the control and regulation of the BTRC. So, loopholes would be there to play foul and the central bank would have little to do against them, as they would function beyond the central bank’s jurisdiction. The debate whether the mobile phone operators should be permitted to do mobile banking is likely to continue, as the mobile phone operators have a very strong lobby that has often fl exed its muscle. However, so far the central bank is fi rm against allotting licenses to the mobile phone companies to do mobile banking.

At present 18 scheduled banks are operating in the mobile banking sector. Licenses were given to 25 banks to conduct their operations in this sector. Almost BDT6.90 billion is transacted everyday through the mobile banking service.

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