Working Together with Microfinance for the Benefit of the Poor

July 18, 2009

Sharing experience, knowledge and technical expertise in the area of microfinance across the Pacific will benefit the region as a whole. Success stories from microfinance initiatives in Pacific Island countries can be effectively implemented in other parts of the region.

This was the message from Benny Popoitai, the Deputy Governor Regulation of the Bank of Papua New Guinea as he officially closed the Pacific Microfinance Week in Nadi yesterday.

“We in the Pacific region are constrained by not having enough financial resources to provide for our respective populations, inadequate professional and skilled manpower, lagging technology and lack of capacity of state agencies to transform and materialise developmental aspirations,” Mr. Popoitai said.

He said mutual benefits could be drawn from each other by sharing experiences, knowledge, financial and technical resources.

“If we are serious about our prospects for growth and opportunities for the Pacific region, we must work together with our development partners including the donor institutions to bring vital financial services to the rural majority using microfinance as the vehicle.”

Mr Popoitai emphasized that a large segment of Pacific population was based in remote areas and were excluded from the formal financial system.

“It is cost-effective for them if microfinance services are delivered right to their doorsteps,” said Mr Popoitai.

“Technology plays a major part in reducing the cost of transaction, especially in microfinance where every cent and dollar counts.”

Along the course of the Pacific Microfinance Week, participants heard how technology like mobile phones can be used by people in remote areas to access financial services. They also heard about a two card system to transfer remittances to Pacific Island countries at a relatively low cost.

Mr Popoitai also identified financial literacy as an issue to be addressed in the Pacific region.

Financial literacy was a recurring theme at the Pacific Microfinance Week.

During his opening address, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Sada Reddy said that while microfinance was critical in reducing poverty, it needed to be back up by financial literacy. He commended the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) work in the area of financial literacy.

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Hon Bob McMullan MP said that Australian Government’s Aid Programme (AusAID) would continue to work with partners in the area of microfinanceand would like to improve financial literacy.

Hon Bob McMullan MP also commended the work done by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) in the area of financial literacy.

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping provide sustainable financial services to low income households. It is funded by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and operates from the UNDP Pacific Centre.

PFIP, one of the sponsors of the Pacific Microfinance week, organized a workshop on financial literacy and another on microinsurance during this event.

Financial literacy, sharing knowledge on microfinance, and empowering microfinance institutions and other like-minded organizations to better provide sustainable financial services are the priorities of PFIP.

PFIP works in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa. The knowledge generated from the work in these countries will also be shared in other countries in the Pacific.

The Pacific Microfinance Week which drew to as close yesterday, brought together more than 150 microfinance and financial sector practitioners, experts, policy-makers, academics and regulators drawn from more than 20 countries from across the Pacific and other parts of the world.