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Myanmar goes plastic with first debit cards

Published on Sep 14, 2012 4:22 PM
A MasterCard logo is seen on a door outside a restaurant in New York, in this Feb 3, 2010 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (REUTERS) - Myanmar launched its first debit cards on Friday, giving customers the chance to use plastic for shopping, dining and travel for the first time in the latest leap forward for its cash-dominated economy.

The central bank announced the formation of the Myanmar Payment Union (MPU), in cooperation with 17 banks, which will let customers take out cash from any ATM machine nationwide and make payments in a small number of shops, restaurants and offices.

"Now we still have a cash society, but we're heading towards a cashless one," Mr Ye Min Oo, secretary of the MPU, said at the launch in the commercial capital, Yangon.

Debit and credit cards have been available for years in most neighbouring countries but the arrival of plastic in Myanmar is a significant step for an economy lumbered with an antiquated banking system after decades of Western sanctions and disastrous fiscal policies under a military regime.

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