If you want to withdraw cash from your bank account in Myanmar, you need to get up as early as at least 4 a.m and go to an ATM-not any ATM but ATM where your bank chooses to refill cash. Then wait for hours to have your turn to withdraw cash. If you are late, then you have very little chance to withdraw that day. Or If you don’t want to spend hours to have your turn to withdraw, then there is an option for you: you can exchange digits from your bank account with cash by paying as much as 10 percent as a fee to those who have cash or are making money from such transaction.
This is a clear sign that Myanmar, where most of the population is not familiar with cashless payment, is facing a cash shortage while very few restaurants, retail chains such as City Mart, and wholesales such as Makro accept cashless payment. It is undeniable that financial sector suffers severe impact of the current political situation in Myanmar and mobile financial services are no exception.
“Since February, we’ve faced difficulties associated with internet disruptions, frequent power outages, irregular bank operations, and security issues,” Wave Money, a financial service provider, said in an email reply to Myanmar Business Today’s inquiry. The financial service provider also added that it is committed to its vision of fairer future for Myanmar people.
Wave Money became hugely popular among Myanmar people in transferring cash due to its convenience. In 2020, Wave Money, with 5.4 million monthly users, saw rapid growth moving K12 trillion, which is twice the amount compared to that of 2019.
However, aftermath of the coup, Wave Money’s services are not as easy to access as it was before. Myanmar Business Today found out that most of the Wave Money’s agents are not able to cash out for customers and only accept transfer. Even if the agents can provide withdrawal, they often charge much higher fees than before, to which Wave Money issued a statement on Facebook urging agents not to overcharge customers. In the comment section of the Wave Money’s Facebook post, agents complained that they are unable to exchange their e-money on Wave Money account with cash and urged the company address it first.
Wave Money recognizes that the constraints posed by the current situation are complex and unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. “We are closely in touch with agents and finding ways to manage cash flow through distribution channels that will allow them to address customers’ needs in a sustainable manner,” it added. “We are trying our best to manage the cash flow and support millions of customers as per normal within the constraints of the current situation.”
Since cash in the Wave Money account cannot easily be withdrawn, customers, whose confidence on the banking system of the country has decreased over three months, are concerned that they might lost their money. But, Wave Money promises that the money are safe and hopes that obile wallets, such as the WavePay application, can hopefully alleviate the cash shortage.