Provinces lacked banking services - Solomon Star News

Provinces lacked banking services

06 February 2018
Teachers and other public servants queuing up at one of the BSP agents in Kirakira of Makira Province. [Photo: Samson Sade]

With the exception of Auki and Gizo, the rest of our provincial centers are without proper banking services.

The nonexistence of banks is a grave concern for the advancement of business and trade in the provinces.

Banks are vital for the growth of our provincial economies as they provide the service businesses and people need to keep the provincial centers humming with activities. 

During its provincial tours last year, Star National Magazine has noted that the absence of banking services in the rural areas is more acute than ever before.

Some banks that have operated branches have decided to pull-out citing high operational cost as reason for closing down.

One of the worst hit Islands is Savo and Russell.

Public Servants and other working class residents of the Constituency in the Central Islands Province are in dire need of banking services.

Star National was told that people are finding it hard in the Russell and Savo Islands to do banking due to lack of banking facilities and have to travel to Honiara even for a simple withdrawal or deposit of money.

Despite its close proximity to the capital Honiara, people in the Savo/Russell are still lagging behind in accessing banking services.

Teachers and nurses working in the constituency find this situation very challenging as their professional responsibilities require them to be always at post unless they are on leave.

Head Teacher of the Louna Community High School (Primary) Samson Auna said that banking services are nonexistence on the Islands.

Auna said that they have no options but to rely on Telegraphic Transfer services to transact with small canteens in Yandina for all their shopping requirements.

The head teacher further said that the telegraphic transfer transactions are the only way for them to get cash.

 However, how much one withdraws very much determined by the actual cash received during a days’ trading. 

A Police Officer spoken to say that when there is insufficient supply of money at the agent for everyone some would resort to borrowing money from others or suffer the consequence of returning home empty handed.

He said that if they ‘re planing to come to Honiara for withdrawals, they have to skip three or four fortnightly salaries in order to meet their travelling costs  and be able to do more shopping for themselves.

The head of the Ravadi Primary school Flex Tafao said the absence in banking services in the Russell is an issue that they have to learn to live with.

“Yandina has no banking services and this poises a real challenge for us,” Tafao said.

“Once the bank agents are out of cash, we have to travel to Honiara to withdraw money,” Tafao continued.

To avoid the whole teaching staff from leaving each fortnight an arrangement was agreed upon in that only one teacher is allowed to travel to Honiara to access banking services for everyone.

The staff takes turns to go to avoid causing inconvenience to normal school programs.

Tafao said that the teacher would leave via MV Kosco on Wednesday and return on Sunday.

“This is how we travel to Honiara to withdraw money after NBSI closed its operation here in the early 2000s,” Tafao recalled.

Davina Tome of Ravulomata Adventist Primary School on Savo Island also expressed similar challenges and hardships.

 She said that on the Island of Savo, there are no shops, no bank agents let alone a fully fledge branch and therefore all banking requirements are accessed via Honiara.

It is therefore no mistake to say that bank services are still an issue for rural Solomon Islanders.

However, with the opening of more commercial banks in the country, people are hoping to see effective banking services in the rural areas.

There is nowhere worse off in banking services than Rennell in the Renbel Province.

Star National Magazine was told during its recent visit to Rennell that people are finding it hard to do banking due to lack of facilities.

They have to travel to Honiara just to make simple cash withdrawals or deposits.

With the high cost of sea and air transportations to Honiara and back, it is simply uneconomical to do banking in Honiara.

With the exception of Fridays, Solomon Airline serves the province daily.

However, travelling to Honiara by plane just to withdraw one’s salary every two weeks is beyond affordability.

Whilst other provinces are on cue with the improvements in banking, Rennell is still lagging behind.

Teachers and nurses working on the Island find this situation very challenging as their professional responsibilities require them to be always at post unless they are on leave.

Employers nowadays opt to use banks for employee salary payments instead of cash envelopes.

Individuals and business houses require the service of banks to serve excess cash, transfer and withdraw them when required.

However, public servants and other formally employed residents on Rennell in the Renbel Province have been without banking service for far too long.

The Island is in dire need of banking services.

Kirakira Township on the other hand is fortunate to be served by two commercial banks through their respective agents.

Whilst ANZ customers are happy to access banking services through their only agent in the far eastern corner of Kirakira, BSP is offering the same to its clients in the center of the township.

Our Telekom is pleased to be a party to the Banking Services in the province.

These agents are connected to Solomon Telekom’s Data Network, which helps them facilitate financial transactions at ease.

The bank agents use the Data Network provided by Our Telekom to provide banking services to the people of Makira.

However, the agents’ services are very much depended on Our Telekom for an effective and efficient service.

This means that once the network is down or have a higher number of subscribers hooked up at any one time, service is affected. 

With the improvement to 3G services, the prospects are unlimited and the population of Makira is guaranteed a better, improved and efficient service.

Unlike Honiara, Auki, and Gizo, Makira’s provincial capital is still without a bank branch.

This means that whilst the three centers are enjoying a fully-fledged banking service, Kirakira could only afford simple withdrawals and depositing services.

Other services that are beyond the agents capacities are referred to Honiara for attention. 

This causes inconveniences to customers especially business houses, who have to bear the extra cost of travelling to Honiara.

Agent transactions are done through the mobile banking mode.