RANGOON — The Myanmar Payment Union (MPU) signed with Vietnamese telecom multinational FPT and the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) on Sunday to initiate a financial switching system, Zaw Lin Htut, chief executive officer of the MPU, told The Irrawaddy.
As MPU’s partners, FPT and NAPAS will—starting this year—help facilitate a system upgrade for ATM cards in Burma.
“We need US technology to upgrade our system to offer required services to our customers,” Zaw Lin Htut said, adding that FPT and NAPAS would be key players in the process.
All of the MPU’s member banks will cooperate in upgrading their ATM card system, which now receives many user complaints due to a lack of infrastructure.
Soe Thein, executive director of Asia Green Development Bank, said that Burma’s ATM card system requires an upgrade, particularly as the number of users increase. Working with international organizations, he said, is the first step in graduating to international card use.
“MPU member banks’ ATM cards can only used in local machines. That’s why the MPU is trying to work with other foreign payment groups. This upgrade is the first step in ‘going international’ right now,” he said.
More than 20 banks have been working with the MPU to issue ATM cards across the country.
“After upgrading, users will be able to not only withdraw cash at an ATM, but transfer funds from account to account with different banks. It means we will be enhancing our product line,” Zaw Lin Htut explained.
The transfer feature will be part of the first phase of the upgrade project, he added. The payment industry in Burma is still weak, as connectivity and infrastructure development remain limited.
“There will be three phases, however, we still need the government’s support—it is crucial. Without their support, reliable infrastructure and payment industry development will not be possible,” he said. “By giving incentives to merchant and cardholders—such as tax incentives—we will promote the MPU [project] and connect to the Asian Payment Network soon.”
In October 2012, the MPU introduced their debit cards and distributed them to users. There are currently an estimated 1.8 million ATM card users in Burma with 2,000 automatic transaction machines and over 6,000 Points of Sale (POS) throughout the country.
Since late 2012, the MPU has signed cooperation agreements with China’s UnionPay International, the Japan Credit Bureau, MasterCard and Visa.
Its membership includes 23 local banks, three of which are state-owned, including the Myanmar Economic Bank, the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank. Two others are military-backed—the Inwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank.