As a developing country Pakistan constantly faces serious dilemmas pertaining to socio-economic and security reasons as well as in the diplomatic field. After a long struggle, Pakistan has been successful in enhancing its security and with respect to diplomatic relations restoring parameters to acceptable international norms. However the gap in the socio-economic field still needs to be filled.
From 1947 to till now, various leaders introduced different plans and policies for enhancing socio-economic life of the poor but the results always fell short of expectations and consequently the goals were never achieved. About 80 million adult population does not have bank accounts, almost a similar number have no access to internet. Asaan Mobile Account-AMA scheme has been introduced by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Dec 13, 2021 for those who have neither access to internet nor having bank accounts. With the ease of its use, people can open their account by simple dialing *2262# USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) code from simple-mobile-phone, and enter into the world of financial services, without requiring internet connectivity. People can enjoy financial services (money transactions, utility bills submissions, and taking a loan for organizing businesses etc.) without internet access, without paper documentations, and without smart phones by simply dialing a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) code *2262#.
This scheme is especially for less-educated people who are unaware about technology and do not have financial services. After dialing *2262#, Customers will have the choice to choose from any of the 13-branchless banking service providers that are currently offering the AMA. Mostly the bank account is opened in less than one minute.
Women comprise only 18% of the 160 million bank accounts, many of the male population have multiple bank accounts. Not having access to banks women face greater obstacles in accessing formal financial services due to mobility, cultural and documentation issues. The Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) will be a great platform for women to be empowered and saving them from dominant family males who forcefully or emotionally take money from them. Further, women can take easy loans from Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) for organizing low-capital businesses like stitching, designing, cooking etc. Such steps can evidently improve socio-economic life of Pakistanis.
Financial security is another big challenge for low-income or daily wages people who do not have bank access. The “daily wagers” save their money at their houses so the chances of criminal activities like robbery could be increased. Protecting money in a secured environment is more important for poor people than rich ones. AMA is a simplest and less technical system protects their financial capital from any criminal or unforeseen activity.
Factually, Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy shows that Pakistanis give around Rs240 billion (more than $ 1.5 billion) annually to charity. So, ROTI & KAPRA are not severe issues for Pakistanis that people die due to hunger or live without clothes as much as MAKAN (house), a roof over one’s head, is an immediate requirement for Pakistanis. While food shortage have persisted due to famine within the South Asia sub-continent unlike other areas such as Bengal, Bihar, etc the area now comprising Pakistan has never faced a famine. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto raised a heart-touching but emotional slogan; “Roti, Kapra, & Makan”“(Food, Cloth, & Shelter) in 1970. However how is it possible to provide a MAKAN (house) without having a bank account? While the govt has announced home loans (Roshan Apna Ghar), for the poor owning a Makan (home),without a bank account this remains a pipedream. After a hiatus of 50-year, history is fulfilling the basic requirement of that slogan (ROTI, KAPRA, & MAKAN) with State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) initiating the ASAAN MOBILE ACCOUNT (AMA). With the world moving towards digitalization and globalization, awareness about technology is necessary for working either in big or grass root level. Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) has become an important and necessary path towards technology. Those people who do not have much idea about technology or little access to it so, they can easily learn and use technology via USSD code by simple-mobile-phone without having internet and smart mobile phone.
Unemployment and poverty are those variables which negatively impact on socio-economic condition of people. In Pakistan, unemployment and poverty rate is almost 5% and 39% respectively. Rationally, unemployment and poverty can be controlled by creating jobs and easiness in doing-business. The same opportunity is providing through Asaan Mobile Account (AMA) by opening a bank account and avail financial services, especially loans for business.
Men and particularly women should avail this opportunity for financially self-sufficient and consequently, play their role in boosting Pakistani economy. With MAKAN now a reality, AMA is a game changer for the poor.
— The writer is a
with a Fintech firm.
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