Banking customers in Pakistan made record cash withdrawals of Rs. 827 billion through ATMs during the month of Ramadan till holidays Eid-ul-Fitr amid the high demand of currency notes for personal and business expenditures.
According to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan, bank customers withdrew a record Rs. 827.2 billion through 63.2 million transactions through ATMs during Ramadan and Eid holidays.
These customers made a massive cash withdrawal of Rs. 137.8 billion through 11.6 million transactions from ATMs during a few days of Eid holidays only, SBP added.
There are more than 16,000 ATMs of various banks operating across the country. This year, the banking regulator, in collaboration with commercial banks, has been taking several steps to ensure maximum availability of ATM-related services to its customers, especially during Ramadan and long holidays, including Eid.
Consequently, the joint efforts of SBP and commercial banks saw an average of 96.5 percent uptime recorded in ATM services during Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. This further improved to 98 percent uptime during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.
SBP initiated a Special ATM Monitoring exercise during Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr holidays keeping in view the high demand for cash. In this regard, a dedicated team within SBP was formed to oversee the nationwide ATM Operations of all banks through both On-site and Off-site inspections and monitoring.
Dedicated SBP staff remained available round-the-clock to liaison with banks to ensure the availability of uninterrupted ATM-related services to the customers during the long Eid-ul-Fitr holidays spanning over nine days. SBP teams received more than 500 complaints from the public that were immediately taken up with the banks for resolution in the shortest possible time.
The ATM uptime has also been encouraging as it was difficult for banks to mobilize ATM Monitoring teams on-ground for resolution of issues because of mobility restrictions and issues related to the availability of spare parts due to closure of markets etc.
For the last two years, the SBP has suspended an SMS service for fresh currency notes to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among the customers. In 2019, the banking regulator disbursed an amount of Rs. 360 billion ahead of Eidul Fitr and Rs. 284 billion ahead of Eid-ul-Azha.
While the withdrawal of cash was witnessed a record growth, the central bank, in collaboration with commercial banks, should introduce a scheme to promote digital channels for the purpose of transactions, mainly on the high demand seasons like the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul Azha. The trend will improve the digitization of the banking system markedly, and it will contain the expenses of the banking watchdog and the misuse of cash in the economy.