Mobile wallets boom as pandemic burns on

The second wave of COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing, and continues to deal blow after blow to the economy.

This week, KBZ Bank announced that it would temporarily close 51 of its Yangon branches, leaving only 92 open as the city remains under tight lockdown. The manufacturing sector continues to suffer with Yangon factories closed, and now factories in the city of Mandalay are also closing their doors, the Myanmar Times reported, due to logistics delays. Mandalay has (at the time of writing) reported less than 300 COVID-19 cases, yet it is battening down the hatches with its own stay-at-home order.

Meanwhile, the government continues to try to mitigate damage through its existing COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP), which was revealed in April. The Ministry of Immigration and Population announced that beginning next month, all workers forced to stay at home, and not receiving ordinary social security benefits, will be eligible for stimulus payments of MMK 30,000. This is in addition to the MMK 20,000 promised to every household earlier in the year.

On the plus side, the fintech industry, already on the rise, is finding new opportunities. As its brick-and-mortar branches close, KBZ Bank told the Myanmar Times that it would focus on its KBZ Pay platform, already an industry leader, to pick up the slack. Indeed, support for the fintech industry is part of the CERP, and the government said they would partner with companies such as Wave Money to make direct relief payments. Oxford Business Group’s recent COVID-19 Economic Impact assessment expects digital transactions to grow 7.1% this year.

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