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PNG’S LEADING BANK HESITANT TO SERVE RURAL AREAS Recent robberies among security risks

By Patrick Talu PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 28, 2011) - Bank South Pacific (BSP) is rethinking its plan to provide banking services in the rural areas over security concerns.

BSP chief executive officer Ian Clyne and head of rural banking Paul Thornton indicated last Friday during a media briefing that BSP’s rural banking projects are now being reviewed in light of recent robbery at Kwikila in Rigo, Central, and Daulo in Eastern Highlands.

Right now, there are 10 rural banking projects under way "but given the recent robbery, we have to review," Clyne said. "Simply put, if BSP rural could not be protected, then there would be no BSP rural branch in those areas (Daulo and Kwikila). BSP’s policy on armed robbery is clear – we will immediately close Daulo and Kwikila BSP rural branches for an indefinite period," Clyne stressed.

That means the people of Daulo and Kwikila will now have to travel at great cost to Goroka and Port Moresby to do their banking.

Thornton said the BSP rural banking initiative was launched in last year to provide basic banking services across the country.

"This initiative is a community service initiative that would not generate profit for BSP," he added.

To date, the bank has six branches, namely Kwikila, Daulo, Banz, Minj, Kerowagi and Lufa with staff recruited locally.

Clyne said BSP had taken the view based on previous experience that the people and the local community would have been aware of these pending robberies and might even know the identity of those involved.

The bank executives said the act of criminals now penalize majority of honest and hardworking people in those two areas.

Last Tuesday, the new BSP rural branches in Daulo and Kwikila lost a total of PGK70,000 [US$27, 000] to armed robbers.

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