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Banks mint money from resettled Tamils

world Updated: Dec 07, 2009 02:09 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Internally displaced Tamils have deposited nearly SLR 2 billion in cash and jewellery in banks opened for them in the refugee camps of northern Sri Lanka.

That amount translates to more than Rs 810 crore, almost enough to start an infrastructure company.

Several mobile bank branches with ATMs are functioning in camps in Vavuniya in north Sri Lanka. Thousands of savings accounts and jewellery lockers have been opened in these branches.

“Many of the displaced had come to the camps with cash strapped to their arms and legs. Forty-feet containers were transformed into mobile banks so that the people could deposit the money and valuables. Telecommunication facilities were also given so that they could get remittances from relatives abroad,” Ajith N. Cabraal, the governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka, told HT.

“As more Tamils get resettled, we expect that remittances they have been getting from abroad would also increase,” Cabraal said.

He added that in a recent meeting in Jaffna, commercial banks in the five districts of the northern province — large parts of which were under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — were instructed to release about SLR 1 billion in December in small loans to help Tamils resettle.

“Sixty-six bank branches have been approved (to be opened in the northern province). Every week one new branch is being opened,” Cabraal said, adding that MNC banks might also branches in the region soon.

The banking sector is seeing a flurry of activity as Tamil refugees get resettled in the northern districts.

According to government statistics, there were 105,672 internally displaced persons in camps in Vavuniya as of Saturday.

At the end of the war against the LTTE in May, there were nearly 3 lakh of them in the camps.