Offer remittance services at minimum cost: CBO tells Oman banks

MUSCAT: The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has urged all banks in the Sultanate to keep their fees to a minimum when processing requests for remittance services from customers – Omani and expatriate alike.

The advisory to banks comes in the wake of the shuttering of private money exchange networks in the Sultanate as part of measures introduced by the Omani government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Banks are advised to keep in view the closure of Money Exchange houses per the directives of the Supreme Committee and accordingly offer remittance services at minimum cost,” the apex bank stated in a circular to licensed banks operating in the Sultanate.

Tens of thousands of mainly expat blue-collar workers, who have long been dependent on money exchanges for remitting funds to their native countries, will now have to turn to banks for these services.

The relatively tech-savvy among them, however, have downloaded money-transfer apps that make it possible for them to remit funds to their overseas accounts using the direct payment gateways offered by a number of local banks through third-party service providers.

According to figures published by the Central Bank, remittances by expatriate workers totaled RO 3.829 billion in 2018, down from a peak of RO 4.2 billion in 2015. The downtrend is attributable to the current fiscal and economic downturn, as well as an overall decline in the size of the expatriate population.

Significantly, the Central Bank has also announced a waiver of its charges on Point-of-Sale (POS) transactions and has asked banks not to pass on these fees to customers in turn.

“The Central Bank is waiving the charges levied on POS transactions and accordingly directs banks to waive the charges levied by them for such transactions,” the regulator added in its latest circular.