May 22, 2014
• Representatives of the Fiji Government
• Members of the Diplomatic Corps
• Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji – Barry Whiteside
• Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme Manager – Reuben Summerlin
• Members of the Fiji National Financial Inclusion Taskforce
• Members of the Media
• Ladies and Gentlemen
Bula vinaka to you all,
• It is a pleasure to be here this evening to launch a partnership that plays a vital role in promoting inclusive growth and prosperity for the Pacific.
• Since 2009, Australia has contributed to multi-donor funding of the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme.
Alongside partners including New Zealand, the United Nations and European Union, the Australian Government recognizes that when low income and rural households have access to financial services, they are better able to grasp opportunities to contribute to – and benefit from – economic growth.
• The evidence is clear – affordable, readily available financial services can reduce poverty and promote pro-poor growth, enabling economies to develop and improving livelihoods.
Studies [World Bank/CGAP] show that countries with more developed financial markets show comparatively low rates of financial exclusion and poverty.
• This tangible link is becoming more apparent in PFIP’s focus countries – Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and of course Fiji.
• Through designing financial literacy programs, building capacity of financial service providers and regulatory bodies, and supporting pro-poor financial services, PFIP is helping lay the foundation for a prosperous Pacific region by enabling the poor to save, insure against risks and grow their own entrepreneurial activities.
• I acknowledge the presence of eminent representatives of Fiji’s Financial Inclusion Taskforce – your expertise, experience and guidance continues to play a significant role in tackling financial service barriers.
I congratulate you and all stakeholders on the development of the Fiji National Financial Inclusion and Financial Literacy Strategy, as well as the mainstreaming of financial education into the core curriculum in schools – an achievement Fiji shares with Samoa.
Financial Inclusion Taskforces and Strategies are also in place in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
• With 600,000 previously unbanked Pacific Islanders now enjoying access to financial services, it is pleasing to note that women make up close to half of this number.
Empowering women to participate in the economy is not just the right thing to do – it is smart economics, and Australia has dedicated no less than half of its development assistance to benefiting women and girls.
When women are able to participate fully in the economy, we all stand to prosper.
In this respect, PFIP’s work in addressing the unique barriers for women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment is commendable.
• Over the last phase, PFIP worked with the Life Insurance Corporation of India and trained field officers to provide affordable insurance schemes to protect low income families from financial shocks due to the loss of loved ones.
This was the first such micro-insurance product in Fiji and the Pacific to be targeted at vulnerable communities.
The slightest of shocks can plunge disadvantaged families deeper into poverty – and affordable insurance is a step towards ensuring their self-reliance.
• Looking to the future, this next phase of PFIP’s efforts is dedicated to developing financial inclusion strategies in additional Pacific Island Countries, as well as rolling out financial education in schools across the region.
The Australian Government is pleased to invest AUD$14.15 million in this initiative, amounting to 50% of total contributions.
• Economic growth is fuelled primarily by people and their behavior.
Influencing policy makers, service providers and vulnerable communities to change behavior will involve catalytic investments, aimed at self-reliance and growth for low-income populations
o PFIP’s work in Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu represents one such catalytic investment.
• In closing, I would like to thank all stakeholders for your support over PFIP’s initial phase and commend you for the achievements and progress made.
I wish all stakeholders well in building a prosperous Pacific and it is with great pleasure that I officially launch this partnership.
Vinaka vakalevu and Thank you.