New goals set to increase financial inclusion in Fiji

November 25, 2015

IMG_4750(1)Suva, Fiji – “The whole world recognizes that it is difficult to pursue economic growth if a large sector of our society is financially excluded from active participation in the economy.”

Speaking on the importance of financial inclusion in Fiji, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF), Barry Whiteside, said during his opening speech at the 2nd Fiji Financial Inclusion Strategy Workshop in November this year.

Addressing stakeholders gathered at the consultative meeting, Mr. Whiteside, said that Fiji was now at its first major crossroads upon the completion of its initial five year Financial Inclusion Strategic Plan which ended in 2014 and the need for new goals to be set.

 

The workshop was convened by the RBF with technical and financial support from the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) – a joint programme of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and UNDP.

Stakeholders who attended were government ministries, private sector businesses and institutions, civil society organizations representing women, youth and people living with disabilities and donor agencies.

The Governor and Chair of the National Financial Taskforce (NFIT) highlighted some of the major achievements under the previous strategic plan which included

  • The formation of the NFIT that provided leadership and coordination and monitored the financial inclusion strategies and goals,
  • Achieved the goal of 150,000 newly banked Fijians by the end of 2014 which was achieved by the first quarter of 2014.
  • A partnership with the Ministry of Education to pilot Financial Education in 28 schools in Fiji which later culminated into 907 schools providing it as part of the curriculum, which impacted about 197,000 students.

Mr. Whiteside also highlighted the lack of reliable data on financial inclusion which he said, hinders good policy making and prioritization of projects at the national level.

“Six years ago when we started on our financial inclusion journey, there was limited data available to help us benchmark and measure the level of financial inclusion in Fiji.”

“What we had was mainly supply side data from our financial institutions,” he said.

He added that through the support of PFIP, the NFIT had conducted several surveys like the Financial Services Demand Side Survey and the Financial Competency Survey which measured the level of financial competency of Fijian households and led to the development of Fiji’s National Financial Literacy Strategy.  RBF was also able to conduct a detailed mapping survey of all financial access points and mobile coverage across Fiji.

“All this data means we are now better placed to make evidence-based decisions on financial inclusion matters and focus our strategies going forward.”

“The data provides the foundation for stakeholder discussions in developing the next strategy, he added.

PFIP’s Results Management Adviser, Elizabeth Larson, provided stakeholders with an overview of the major findings of the Financial Services Demand Side Survey.

She said that while 60% of those surveyed had a formal bank account, men were more financially included.  She also highlighted barriers faced by rural dwellers who had to travel on average at least 10 km to access or open formal bank accounts.

Ms. Larson said that the survey highlighted pertinent issues and urged stakeholders to take the survey findings into consideration during discussions and to come up with relevant evidence based solutions for the next five year strategy.

Stakeholders were then broken into six groupings under national strategic objectives focusing on the empowerment of women, youth and people with disabilities, products and services, financial infrastructure, digital financial services, private public partnerships and data management.  PFIP provided facilitator and moderation roles in each group and assisted RBF with the compilation of each groups discussed outcomes.

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Group presentations highlighted the need for financial literacy, an expansion of financial services to rural centers, the high costs associated with digital financial services and the need to 
relook at it and how best to improve their usage, providing an enabling environment for business innovation to thrive and areas that the government could partner with the private sector to assist with improving financial inclusion.

Banking institutions also recommended a standardized financial literacy training module and an accreditation body for financial trainers.  They also recommended the translation of these modules into the vernacular languages and a follow up mechanism to monitor its effectiveness.

The working groups also came up with recommended quantitative targets which will be included in the strategy document.

The RBF through the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce will be finalizing these targets and incorporate them into the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan which is expected to be circulated early next year.

 

About the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping low-income households gain access to quality and affordable financial services and financial education. It is jointly managed by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNC DF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UN DP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government. PFIP funding for the Fiji Demand Side Survey was from the DFAT Fiji bi-lateral programme.

PFIP aims to add one million Pacific Islanders to the formal financial sector by 2019 by spearheading policy and regulatory initiatives, facilitating access to appropriate financial services and delivery channels and by strengthening financial competencies and consumer empowerment.

For more information or media inquiries please contact:

Erica Lee – Communications Associate    Tel: +679 322 7538   Email: erica.lee@undp.org.fj     Website: http://www.pfip.org/