The Money Route: Where To?

La ruta del dinero: ¿hacia dónde?

HAVANA, Feb. 25th. Withdrawing money from ATMs in the city of Las Tunas continues to be a problem that affects thousands of people, and every day the long queues. The lack of cash in these machines, and the impossibility of paying for products or services through Transfermóvil or EnZona are key to the issue of banking penetration, which is making little progress in practice beyond the numbers.

In the province, there are eight ATMs of the Credit and Commerce Bank (BANDEC in Spanish) and six of the Popular Savings Bank (BPA in Spanish), of which only ten are in the capital city, while BANDEC alone had issued more than 348,500 magnetic cards throughout the province at the end of the last year.

So, if it is difficult to withdraw money from ATMs because the demand is vastly greater than the supply, if it is difficult to use the extra cash service in more than 638 establishments in commerce, gastronomy, CUPET, and Cuba’s Post Offices because they either do not have money or for other reasons that prevent them from providing the service, and almost no merchant accepts payment through the existing gateways, what does the population do, powerless because they cannot acquire products or services?

As cash is almost unusable with cards, the ATM is the most common means of payment used by the population, hence the long and exhausting queues every day of the week.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that ATMs are already obsolete, have problems with their batteries and rollers, jam systematically, and often work with recycled banknotes, in addition to the fact that salaries have risen and withdrawals are higher.

All these objective problems are understandable, but a quick tour of the city showed how on any given day, some ATMs of the Banco Popular de Ahorro in the city center were out of cash, as were those located in the branch of that entity in the Buena Vista district, which sometimes also happens in Bandec. And there were days when people went from one bank to another without any result.

Is there any justification for this, and isn’t it established that when a cash machine runs out of cash or is out of service, specialized staff must go to the bank immediately to solve the problem? Isn’t this a lack of protection for the population?

According to the Central Bank of Cuba, the process of bankarization is the ideal way for the whole of society to have access to and use banking and financial services: payments, savings, and credit, which is fast and secure, although there is always a part of the population that pays in cash.

As part of this process, Resolution 93/2023 of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, published in the Official Gazette No. 106, came into force on 2 December, which established a new requirement for registration in the Central Commercial Registry, stating that entities engaged in commerce must ensure consumers access to and use of electronic channels to facilitate payment through national gateways or point-of-sale terminals in the provision of their services.

This is, of course, compulsory for natural and legal persons registered in the aforementioned Register and covers wholesale and retail trade activities, gastronomic or social food services, commercial and domestic technical services, and accommodation services provided by companies of the People’s Power.

However, cash remains an option, but it is compulsory to have any of the payment platforms enabled: Transfermóvil or Enzona.

Until now this had been a pipe dream because almost nobody accepted transfers, but on 2 February this resolution came into force.

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