Members of Parliament (MP) yesterday demanded answers from Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Planning Goodall Gondwe on the absence of banking services in crucial trading centres in their constituencies
The minister had two questions from MPs asking him to consider providing banking services to the trading centres.
But when he responded to a question from Machinga South East MP Reverend Wilson Ndomondo (People’s Party-PP), Gondwe said it was government’s policy to ensure that as many Malawians as possible are bankable and have access to financial services.
He said he would appeal to commercial banks to consider trading centres such as Chikweo, Ngokwe, Nampeya and Mpiri in Machinga for banking services as suggested by the MPs.
However, this response did not satisfy Mzimba South MP Maquenda Chunga (People’s Party-PP) who said he had asked a similar question to the minister on three occasions and received the same response, but no banking services were available at Embangweni in his constituency.
Embangweni is home to the Embangweni (Loudon) Mission of the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian which includes a hospital and Robert Laws Secondary School as well as a Loudon Primary School which has close to 20 teachers and a Teachers Training College.
With a population of over 5 000 people, Chunga bemoaned that people travel 49kms to Mzimba Boma to access banking facilities.
“That mission is 101 years old, but has no bank. Can the minister confirm for the fourth time, when will he give us banking facilities?” Chunga said.
In his response, Gondwe said he could not force banks to open branches in certain areas, but encourage them to do so after which they would weigh if the business venture was feasible.
“It is banks involved that make such decisions not the minister. I am aware of the historical background of Embangweni, more than he knows. It is my view that the area needs banking services, but that may not be the view of the banks. But I can assure the the honourable member that I will talk to the banks, but I cannot assure him that it will be done,” Gondwe said.
His remarks prompted a point of order from Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma (People’s Party-PP) who wondered if MPs should continue asking the minister questions pertaining to banking facilities when he had no powers to make such decisions.
Dowa West MP Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi accused the minister of failing to provide incentives to banks to enable them to establish banking facilities in trading centres in his constituency such as Nambuma, Dzoole and Chitseka.
Gondwe, however, encouraged the MPs to continue requesting banking facilities, but reminded them that establishing banks was dependent on their viability studies.
Second deputy speaker Clement Chiwaya also encouraged the MPs to continue asking such questions but stressed that the minister had no powers to force banks to operate in rural areas. n