Peo­ple re­main un­happy with bank­ing sys­tem

The Kurdish Globe - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS -

Af­ter the lib­er­a­tion of Iraq in 2003, many in­ter­na­tional banks be­gan open­ing branches through­out the coun­try, es­pe­cially in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion which is re­garded as the safest part of Iraq. Banks started gain­ing trust as peo­ple be­gan open­ing ac­counts to save their money.

To­day, there are hun­dreds of banks in the Re­gion. Since most of the in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies and NGOs use banks to pay their em­ploy­ees, open­ing of such bank ac­counts is in­creas­ing dra­mat­i­cally.

How­ever, de­spite the great num­ber of the banks, peo­ple re­main un­happy with the bank­ing sys­tem and with the way they are treated by the bank­ing staff.

Dashti Ka­mala, who works for an Amer­i­can com­pany as a trans­la­tor in Er­bil, said that the bank­ing sys­tem in Kur­dis­tan is con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent from that of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in terms of punc­tu­al­ity and prob­lem solv­ing.

In or­der for Ka­mala to re­ceive his monthly salary, he opened an ac­count at the By­b­los bank in Er­bil a few months ago. His pay was sup­posed to go to a New York based bank then to By­b­los Bank in Le­banon be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to the By­b­los branch in Er­bil.

"Ev­ery­day I was check­ing my ac­count which was zero. The com­pany I work for con­firmed that it had sent the money but my ac­count bal­ance did not change. I talked to the bank man­ager who said the money was withheld in Le­banon be­cause the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion ad­dress, which is By­b­los bank in Er­bil, was not re­ferred to prop­erly."

Ka­mala along with seven of his co­work­ers closed their ac­counts and opened an­other ac­count with a dif­fer­ent bank.

Ka­mala, who pre­vi­ously lived in Eng­land, crit­i­cized the staff work­ers at most of the banks in Kur­dis­tan, es­pe­cially in Er­bil, for ne­glect­ing their clients. "In Eng­land cus­tomers are treated like kings es­pe­cially by the banks. But un­for­tu­nately here in Er­bil clients aren't paid much at­ten­tion; their prob­lems re­main un­re­solved most of the time."

In­suf­fi­cient of­fice open­ing hours is an­other key is­sue ham­per­ing most of the banks. Some banks are only open for less than five hours. Although the civil­ian banks are not re­quired to shut their doors dur­ing the hol­i­days, most of them are not work­ing.

"My com­pany sent my salary 15 days ago, but they tell me here that there is no money in my ac­count. This the third time I have come here," said Aram Muham­mad, while queu­ing to check his ac­count, at Bagh­dad Bank branch in Er­bil.

Muham­mad works at an Amer­i­can Com­pany as an in­ter­preter. Due to se­cu­rity rea­sons, they re­fused to in­form him over the phone if his pay has been trans­ferred to his ac­count or not.

"I have to drive half an hour to come up here just to check my ac­count. I can't check it on­line or through the phone. This sys­tem is really frus­trat­ing," said Muham­mad.

Many peo­ple in Er­bil are liv­ing in poor eco­nomic con­di­tions and rely on a soli­tary source of in­come to feed their fam­i­lies and pay their rent. There­fore, they are neg­a­tively af­fected if they are not paid on time. Thou­sands of peo­ple like Muham­mad suf­fer from re­ceiv­ing cred­its to their ac­counts late due to the slow run­ning na­ture of the bank­ing sys­tems in the Kur­dis­tan re­gion. Muham­mad won­ders as to why some of his co­work­ers have re­ceived their pay in the same bank but some oth­ers are still wait­ing for their salary to be trans­ferred.

Con­cern­ing th­ese is­sues, Ranj Ghazi, man­ager of Er­bil's branch of Bag­dad Bank said "peo­ple who aren't ac­quainted with the bank’s sys­tem can't un­der­stand some is­sues re­lated to the bank’s op­er­a­tions. Be­cause of the New Year and the hol­i­days, the banks were closed. Th­ese hol­i­days de­layed the trans­fers."

Ac­cord­ing to Ghazi there is no ben­e­fit of op­er­at­ing as nor­mal if the head bank in a place is closed but the branches are open. "We opened our bank here and were work­ing nor­mally, but the head bank in Bagh­dad was closed due to Ar­baeen Hol­i­day. If some­one sends money from U.S. to Er­bil for ex­am­ple, the money isn't trans­ferred to Er­bil di­rectly but it goes to Bagh­dad first be­fore it comes to the Er­bil branch. We have no con­nec­tion to the source if there is no trans­ac­tion in the head bank in Bagh­dad," ex­plained Ghazi.

Many peo­ple have wit­nessed great de­vel­op­ments in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion but the bank sys­tem is one that is yet to see no­table im­prove­ments. Many in­ter­na­tional bank­ing ser­vices such as Master Card and Visa Card etc, which are de­signed to make peo­ple's lives eas­ier, are not uti­lized as much in Kur­dis­tan.

Muham­mad noted that he quit us­ing his Master Card since most of the ATM machines in Er­bil Banks were ei­ther bro­ken or not work­ing prop­erly.

A view of Er­bil Branch of Bagh­dad Bank.

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