MASERU – Banks are reeling under COVID-19 economic relief measures put in place by the government and the financial institutions themselves as seen in loss of business and forfeiture of expected revenues. Leading local commercial bank, Standard Lesotho Bank has said it has lost business and forfeited expected revenues in the process of fulfilling measures agreed upon by government and financial institutions, including the bank.
Standard Lesotho Bank established personalised debt relief measures for its clients who are in good standing with the Bank and have been directly hit by COVID-19. The relief measures for such cases include payment holidays including deferment of payments or part payments for three months, extending existing loan periods and extending additional credit to manage short-term cash shortfalls for businesses. Such measures are extended only to individuals and businesses whose revenue has been directly affected by the pandemic.
Standard Lesotho Bank Public Relations Officer Kheleli Manyathela said since the lockdown started they have received and confirmed loan holiday payment applications from 2 775 clients who took personal loans and 169 businesses. Some of the applicants are not getting salaries and others have been retrenched while some businesses are not making money due to the lockdown. Manyathela noted since more people will not be repaying their loans, the bank expects a negative impact on the economy.
“Since the lockdown, response to loan offer services has reduced the reason being job and income uncertainty, salary cuts, retrenchments and movement restrictions put in place by the government,” he said. He, however, noted that despite the impact the loan payment holiday has on banking and on the Lesotho economy at large, they still offer loans under normal rates as prescribed by the Central Bank of Lesotho as long as people meet the set criteria and can prove they will be able to repay the loan once granted.
“Apart from offering loan payment relief measures, we also assist struggling businesses with loans to help them keep their businesses afloat during this hard time. We treat instances on a case by case bases to offer such loans at normal rates prescribed by Central Bank of Lesotho,” he said. Manyathela added, to make their loan offer services more accessible, they have digitised their lending and clients can receive loans immediately after applying as these can be approved online.
He said with their digital service, clients can manage their account limits, make payments to local or international beneficiaries, settle traffic fines, stay connected by accessing prepaid airtime, data and electricity, download and send statements and apply for a personal loan which reflects immediately after approval. He said since availability of the digital lending services meant to fast-track the way Standard Bank offers lending to its customers, they have received very positive response from clients and their lending level increased as a result. He, however, emphasised the importance of good account conduct which is an important criterion to be met in order to access the lending service.