Illogical banking

As the country faces challenges with respect to foreign currency reserves and has historically been struggling to maintain them at the desired or required level, the banking rules in Pakistan are being compromised. I have had a US dollar account in one of the commercial banks for the last about seven years in which I receive my pension from United Nations and other remunerations. The usage of these funds is mainly for covering the university fees of my children studying in other countries.

I recently received a remittance of $2,000 from Australia and the bank concerned informed me that it has been converted into Pakistani rupee (PKR) and deposited into my local currency account with the same bank. I told the bank official that I had to remit right away $1,000 to my son in Malaysia, and was informed in return that I should now go to the money changer, or the illegal market, and purchase US dollars (of course, at a higher rate) and then deposit those dollars back into my dollar account. Only then it would be remitted by the bank. Is this not a complete nonsense? My earned US dollars were taken away by the bank without my consent and now I was being asked to go to the illegal market to get dollars and deposit them into my account. It means the bank itself is encouraging the illegal market.

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I asked the bank officials to show me a single State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) circular in this regard or any bank policy advisory/alert. There was none. If the bank was unable to receive my dollars in my foreign currency account due to one or the other reason, it should have asked me for a choice to receive the amount in rupees or to have it returned to the sender.

Besides, who authorised the bank to make a self-deposit into my rupee account without my consent? I could have easily requested the sender to pay my son’s fee on my behalf had the bank returned the amount. Is the bank not driving away people from bringing their dollars to Pakistan? It is. But why?

In developing countries, governments are allowing people to open multi-currency accounts linked with the local currency to boost their foreign exchange. People can receive money in any currency, but cash would be given only in the local currency. The hard currency could be used for covering children’s education abroad or one’s foreign travel or purchase of any essential item from overseas.

Can the SBP or the Ministry of Finance take note of this and adopt proper policy measures and controls? I think in the situation of dismay and chaos in the exchange rate, opportunists are devising self-benefiting rules, and this is a road to self-destruction for all of us. People must stand up against this exploitation by banks and all other such elements.



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