Postal savings schemes go digital

The government yesterday initiated the automation of ordinary and fixed deposit accounts under Post Office Savings Bank to ensure transparency and prevent affluent people from abusing the high interest-bearing tools designed for marginal and low-income groups.

"I don't want the businessmen to take advantage of it. Only the targeted beneficiaries will receive the benefit," said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal while inaugurating the web-based database at a programme held at the secretariat in Dhaka.

The automation, which will allow people to open accounts and deposit and withdraw funds very quickly, will get rid of the misuse of the benefit under the existing system, he said.

The database will keep in check the investment within the limit as well as ensure the transparency of the funds, said the finance division in a press release.

The automation will be completed by March 17, the minister said at the programme.

The government has already automated four types of popular savings schemes: five-year tenure Bangladesh savings scheme, three-month interest-based savings scheme, family savings scheme and pensioner savings scheme.

They are being sold at 1,659 branches under banks, post offices and the Department of National Savings (DNS), the press release said.

Now, the ordinary and fixed deposit accounts are set to go online under a programme of the finance division.

Last month, the finance ministry slashed the interest rates on the three-year tenure fixed deposit in postal savings banks to 6 per cent from 11.28 per cent and ordinary deposit to 4.5 per cent, a move that sparked outcry from various quarters.

There are more than 50 lakh deposit accounts under the postal bank and marginal and low income people from rural and suburban areas mostly park funds there.

The government will restore the previous rate of interest on fixed and ordinary savings scheme by March 17, Kamal said.

"The government will not cut the benefit -- it would remain unchanged," he said, adding that benefits will be increased in some cases and the ceiling of deposits will go up.

The submission of tax identification number and the national identification number will be required while depositing more than Tk 2 lakh.

The finance ministry reduced the interest rate amid a mad dash from a section of wealthy people to open accounts in postal savings bank to deposit money after the government tightened rules on investment in the high interest-bearing national savings certificates.

The government move aimed at preventing the abuse of the benefit given by the state to pensioners and middle-income families.

The instruments carry interest rates as high as 11.76 per cent, which is way higher than what banks offer.

As a result, fixed deposits in postal saving bank soared 66 per cent year-on-year to Tk 11,730 crore in the first half of the fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladesh Post Office.

At the same time, investment in savings certificates sold by post offices plummeted 88 per cent to Tk 1,870 crore.

The ceiling for the highest investment in savings certificates doubled to Tk 50 lakh for individuals and Tk 1 crore under joint names. The investment ceiling for pensioner savings certificates will double to Tk 1 crore.

The deposits at the Post Office Savings Bank were more than a fifth of Tk 83,630 crore of investment made by people in various types of savings certificates, bonds and government schemes in fiscal 2018-19, DNS data showed.

The deposits accounted for 14 per cent of the government's accumulated liabilities as of June 30 last year.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar and Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder also addressed the programme. 


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