Opening Remarks by Deputy High Commissioner Dr. Dave Peebles for Financial Inclusion Expo in the Solomon Islands

June 20, 2014

Deputy High Commissioner Dr. Dave Peebles for Financial Inclusion Expo in the Solomon Islands. 

Opening Remarks for Financial Inclusion Day, 20 – 21 June 2014.

Governor of the Central Bank, Denton Rarawa Deputy Governor, Gane Simbe Financial Inclusion Advisor, KrishnanNarasimhan Staff of CBSI Manager of South Pacific Business Development Commercial Banks representatives Telekomand Bemobile representatives Solomon Post representatives Savings club members School participants Children and youth Ladies and gentlemen

I am very pleased to be here this morning, to make a few brief remarks at the opening of the Financial Inclusion Expo, the first ever to be held in the country.

This event is an important milestone for promoting financial inclusion in Solomon Islands. It provides an opportunity for the Central Bank, the commercial banks and other financial service providers to reach out to their customers to share important information about managing money. First, I would like to acknowledge the initiative and leadership of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands and the National Financial Inclusion Task Force in progressing this important work. The Governor and Deputy Governor at the Central Bank have been very strong supporters of financial inclusion and your hard work, and the work of your team, has been critical to the success that has been achieved so far.

I would also like to thank the Pacific Financial Inclusion team for supporting the Central Bank and the Taskforce in increasing access to financial services in Solomon Islands. A big thank you too, to the three commercials banks – Bank South Pacific, ANZ and Westpac for rolling out your respective mobile money services.

I would like to also thank our two telecommunication companies, Our Telekom and Bemobile for the good work in delivering the technology needed to support these new banking services. I am pleased to hear that there are now 460 access points for banking services across the country. This is an excellent result and shows your combined efforts and commitment towards financial inclusion. I understand that work on financial inclusion is progressing very well indeed.

I am impressed to note that through your hard work and our support, the national target of 70,000 new bank customers in Solomon Islands has been met – 21 months ahead of schedule. While there is still more work to be done, it is pleasing that Solomon Islands is leading the Pacific region in increasing access to financial services. A foundation of the success to date has been the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce. It brings together the public, private and community sectors, as well as donors, around the one table. This is no small achievement – and the success of the Taskforce in improving access to financial services across the country is testament to the commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders involved. I would like to once again acknowledge your combined efforts in meeting the national target ahead of schedule. I am also pleased to see the involvement of women, youth and children in the financial inclusion activities planned during this event. Women and youth play an important role in the development of any country’s economy.

The economic empowerment of women, in particular, can play a crucial role in achieving development gains. When women have access to financial services, they are able to save more money and improve the quality of life for their families by accessing better medical services, paying school fees and providing for other necessities of life. When women generate more income, the chance that their children can attend school is improved – which in turn generates hope for the future. The involvement of youth and school children is also very important. They are the future of this country, and learning good habits around money is vitally important for the future economic development of Solomon Islands. The theme of this event is know your money, save and grow.

When people are able to access and use appropriate and affordable financial services, a whole world of opportunity is opened to them. They can participate in economic activities and earn more money. They can have a safe place to save. They can access a loan to invest in their business. They can save for school fees or for building a new house.

Accessing financial services can make a huge difference to people’s lives. The Australian aid program has been supporting financial inclusion in Solomon Islands over the last three years and more broadly in the region for the last decade. We work with central banks, commercial banks, microfinance firms and practitioners to improve access to financial services for women and men, people in cities and especially for people in remote rural areas.

Australia is committed to supporting the improvement of financial inclusion in the Solomon Islands and the region. And I am pleased to announce today a further AUD5.5 million to support financial inclusion in Solomon Islands over the next four years. This is part of an AUD$14.15 million partnership with the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, aimed at increasing financial services for disadvantaged households across the Pacific.

This funding will enable us to continue to assist the Central Bank and the Taskforce to bring more people into the financial sector and raise financial literacy. Delivering financial services in Solomon Islands presents many challenges, including its island geography and limited infrastructure and services in rural areas.

While we are still in the early days of this work, I am convinced new mobile and branchless banking technologies can help Solomon Islanders overcome some of these challenges of remoteness and distance. With continued support and commitment from all partners, we will surely achieve our goal of an inclusive financial system.

Australia remains committed in supporting the Solomon Islands Government in reaching this goal. I hope you will all enjoy and learn from each other during this expo and I wish you all success.