Dhofaris continue community savings

By Kaushalendra Singh — SALALAH: Jan 3: Dhofaris have a unique sense of banking which never lets them down and keeps them going. They are entirely unaffected with economic jargons like recession, slump, downturn and depression, only because of their age old practice of doing some community savings which helps them in attending social functions, meeting emergencies and urgent medical requirements etc.
The functioning of this banking system is as simple as its name and known commonly as Sandook al Kabeela. Family members and extended family members of every kabeela (tribe) form a group that goes up to 10, 20, 30 or even up to 70. Every month each member deposits some fixed amount. The amount is also decided amicably and anyone in the group who is “trusted” and good in managing funds is given the responsibility of the fund. The money thus collected is deposited in any one of the member’s accounts.
The fund, according to Bakhit al Sahri, a resident of Sahalnoot, is used in the event of someone’s death, wedding or some general emergency like accident or other medical reasons.
“For example, we have a group of 70 people who deposit RO 5 every month. Every month there is a collection of RO 350. It multiplies every month with deposits and we have a withdrawal embargo for one year. A considerably good amount is gathered in one year and then the fund is used for occasions like weddings, deaths and emergency medical requirements. Since most of the members are close family members, the issues of disbursement is easily decided.”
The fund, according to Al Sahri, comes out as a big help as many major issues are easily attended because of this fund. The fund is used mainly for social purposes and all the members are taken into confidence while taking a decision on giving part loan or part donation.
Al Sahri cited an example of a tribe member who needed urgent money. “We sat and decided to give him RO 2,000 as donation and RO 2,000 as loan. It was easy for him as well as for us to meet the requirement with some sense of satisfaction. It would have been an embarrassment otherwise for both the parties as most of the people do not have ready money to attend such sudden calls,” he said.
Mohammed, member of another such group, cited his own family example in which his younger brother’s marriage was fixed even though he was not employed. “We quickly decided to pool some money as I contributed RO 1,000, two other brothers gave RO 500 and RO 700 each, nephew contributed RO 1,000 and other family members contributed some amount that made total contribution to RO 4,000 and RO 4,000 came from Sandook al Kabeela. RO 8,000 was quickly gathered and the marriage was performed hassle free.”
For the sake of consistency the groups maintain certain amount as “reserve” under Sandook al Kabeela. For example out of a total fund of RO 8,000 the informal management of Sandook al Kabeela spares only RO 4,000, as the rest is kept only for “extreme emergency.”
Commenting on how the system of Sandook al Kabeela would have come, Al Sahri said, “the practice of savings is an age old practice even when there were no banks. To my knowledge the concept of Sandook al Kabeela started in 1980s and picked up very fast in 1990s due to better employment opportunities and most of the people having some fixed income every month. Today about 90 per cent houses have this concept.” Easy, informal and family confidential elements would have been the advantages of Sandook al Kabeela over organised banking system, according to Al Sahri. “A sense of family bond and shouldering social responsibility also goes in favour of this system. There are occasions when we managed to arrange money through Sandook al Kabeela for someone’s kidney failure and liver cirrhosis treatments,” he quipped.