September 6, 2012
Fiji will be one of a handful of countries in the world, and the first in the Pacific, to formulate a national action plan to raise the level of financial competency of its population – especially amongst low-income women and men. Since yesterday, over 70 stakeholders from the public sector, private sector, NGOs and the donor community gathered at the Holiday Inn, Suva to formulate a national financial competency strategy based on a household survey conducted in November, 2011.
Through a participatory approach, the two day workshop deliberated on findings from the survey and the development of an action framework. The workshop organized by the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) was opened by the Governor, Mr. Barry Whiteside. The UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Knut Ostby was also present and delivered opening remarks yesterday.
In his statement, Mr. Ostby mentioned, “I wish to begin by recognizing the great strides that Fiji has made to create a financial sector that is more inclusive of all segments of the population.” He mentioned that the results achieved to date was attributed to the pro-active leadership of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT) and the broader stakeholder working group.
Financial competence is the set of enacted skills required to successfully interact with the money economy and the formal financial system. The objective of the survey taken last year was to measure the financial competence of low income households in Fiji and develop an understanding on their financial activities and behaviors.
The results of the survey are significant and the participants will be instrumental in developing a framework that will increase participation of Fiji citizens in the formal financial system.
Governor Whiteside stated, “The Report makes interesting reading and I am sure that participants may have further questions. I am especially interested in the recommendations on critical issues that are pertinent to our financial system: such as lack of understanding among the low income households about financial products and services, particularly the cost of money; what are some of the innovative ways of disseminating financial literacy training and information; what kind of information do financial service providers need to design appropriate financial products; how can the private sector facilitate financial literacy training ; and, what are solutions that can provide for the risk of poverty in old age.”
Mr. Knut Ostby reinforced the importance of coordination and partnership with all stakeholders in the country, adding, “The real force in development, and the real force bringing people out of poverty, is people’s own actions and initiatives. UNDP through PFIP serves to remove barriers and acts as an enabler to help people use their own force to improve living conditions, to reduce poverty and will continue to support the efforts of the NFIT and RBF in the implementation of the national financial competency development strategy.”
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping to provide sustainable financial services to low income households. It is a joint project of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has received additional funding support from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the European Union. The programme operates from UNDP Pacific Centre in Suva, Fiji.