Sri Lanka’s RDB expands to war-torn north

It aims to accelerate economic activity in the region focusing on the small and medium enterprises, agriculture sector and tourism.

“We are mainly looking at providing facilities to build small and medium businesses, the agriculture sector and tourism in the region,� said Janaki Kurrupu, chairman of the RBD, formed last year by merging the island’s regional development banks.

“I can see all other private banks have moved to the area but we differentiate ourselves by using regional money for regional development,� she said.

The RDB was formed in July last year by amalgamating six regional banks in the island’s Rajarata, Ruhuna, Wayamba, Uva, Kadurata and Sabaragamuwa regions in to a single entity with the aim of getting access to foreign funds and lend in the former north-east war zone.

The amalgamated bank ventured in to the East in February 2011 by opening a branch in Batticaloa.

Several branches including one in Ampara were operated under the Uva regional bank prior to the merger and have been taken under the wings of the amalgamated RDB which now has a total network of 15 branches in the East.

Kuruppu said the bank is aiming to expand its network in the North to 10 branches within the next nine months.

Sri Lanka’s northern region, recovering from a 30-year war which ended in May 2009, when government forces defeated the LTTE, is ripe for investments in agriculture and tourism.

Kuruppu said 39 percent of the bank’s total advances of 39.5 billion rupees so far were gold-backed lending popularly known as pawning, for which there is a significant demand in the agriculture sector with nearly 47 percent of gold-backed loans obtained for agriculture activities.

The bank’s 3.5 million customer base is predominantly from the agriculture sector. Its deposits amount to 40 billion rupees.

The bank has already started facilitating the ‘home stay’ concept to uplift tourism in Trincomalee in the east, which it hopes to extent to the north as well, she said.

The RDB is jointly owned by the Sri Lankan treasury, and state-owned Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank and National Savings Bank which provided 12 million rupees as seed capital in 1992.

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