Heang Hay is the proud manager of one of ACLEDA Bank’s latest branches, opened on March 1. Not that the bank is new to Pursat province.
“We started in 1997 as a micro-finance institution. In 2001 we became a specialised bank, then in 2003 a commercial bank,” he says.
One of the problems the province faces is caused by its sheer size: it is the fourth-largest in the country.
“Infrastructure is still poor in remote parts of the province,” Heang Hay says. “Even if we have clients there, we cannot set up an office. It is difficult to reach.”
It takes many hours for his credit officers to travel the 90km from Pursat to Veal Veng, in the far west of the province near the Thai border.
“It is difficult for our staff to go there, because the road is not paved and there are lots of mountains and forests,” he says.
Even if the area was more accessible, Heang Hay has another reason for restricting the amount of money loaned to clients in more remote areas.
“If we provide more loans for the customers here they will do illegal activities such as cutting down the forest,” he says. “We just provide loans for them to know the bank.”
Even in this limited practice, Heang Hay’s staff are careful to ensure the bank is not funding any shady practices.
“Our credit officers check their business and if we find out anyone uses money for illegal purposes we do not provide a loan,” he says.
Heang Hay says the bank had intended to set up an office in Veal Veng this year, but those plans were delayed due to the ongoing border dispute with Thailand in Preah Vihear province.
Even so, he believes there is vast potential for more remote areas of the province.
“In this area there are a lot of mines: aluminium, metals, everything,” he says. “Development in this area is very slow because the forests are very dense.”
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY