May 29, 2017
Welcome to the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme Innovation Hub for a very special occasion.
Governor Loi Bakani regrets he is unable to be here this evening and sends his sincere apologies. In his absence, he has asked me to highlight the significance of this event to the progress of Financial Inclusion in Papua New Guinea.
As you would be aware, achieving Financial Inclusion has been a particular focus for the Bank of Papua New Guinea under the leadership of Governor Bakani. So tonight’s event is very meaningful to the Bank, as it represents a significant milestone along the Financial Inclusion road.
Tonight we recognise the increasing importance of technology innovation in driving economic development in our nation and region, by awarding the inaugural Reuben James Summerlin Innovation Award to a very worthy recipient. And in so doing, we pay our deep respects and express our gratitude to a great friend of the Pacific, in whose memory this award was created.
Reuben Summerlin believed that financial inclusion was about reaching the farthest corner of PNG with financial services and financial literacy. He recognised it was a step at a time and that the journey would be long and arduous. But he always said, “We have to start somewhere. So let’s stop talking and get cracking!”
Wearing his famous green shirt, he continuously challenged us at the Bank to understand what an enabling policy environment for financial inclusion could look like, what it would mean to the nation, what the impact it would have on financial services and what a wonderful life-changing experience it would be for “the woman in Daulo Pass” to be able to receive her weekly wages through a banking channel.
Using his dry humour to make his messages clear, Reuben challenged us to believe in creating a society where individuals could live better lives if they had access to the right financial services for their circumstances and aspirations. He was a strong advocate of financial education in schools as a way we could make an impact on the financial competencies of the next generation.
We remember Reuben with fondness.
I am very pleased to report that in PNG his vision of what financial inclusion should look like is growing stronger and stronger. Cooperation and collaboration between PFIP, the Bank of PNG and financial services providers have resulted in a range of initiatives, now being embraced by our people.
Between 2014 and 2015 1.2 million people, previously without banking services, were brought into the money mainstream by opening accounts with licensed financial institutions. Very significantly a substantial proportion of the new account holders are women or young people – a trend that is very promising for the future.
The Bank’s current Financial Inclusion Strategy has stepped up the targets, with the goal of reaching 2 million more unbanked people. We aim for at least 50 percent of that number to be women.
Continuing this exciting momentum means being able to offer financial services products and delivery systems that marry useful technology with human-friendly initiatives that people willingly adopt and use.
For example, mobile and branchless banking is now helping people build savings while giving them a more cost-effective, efficient, transparent and safer means of making payments.
In more recent times we have seen products like mobile micro-insurance introduced by providers including BIMA, Capital Insurance and Digicel. Now thousands of PNGeans have the protection of insurance, with quality customer service and effective claims processes, when only a relatively short time ago they did not even have access to the most basic of financial services.
These are excellent examples of creating valuable financial innovations by harnessing technology with human requirements. I would like to thank our international donors, especially the European Union, for supporting the second phase of PFIP’s work in Papua New Guinea through the RED 2 Programme, without which many of these achievements would not have been possible.
I also acknowledge the Australian Government for providing a grant to the Bank to investigate the use case of Blockchain Technology. Through research and testing we will determine how best this technology can be applied in PNG to further financial inclusion.
On behalf of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, I commend PFIP and its joint managers, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and United Nations Development Programme, on establishing the Reuben James Summerlin Innovation Award to be awarded for the first time this evening.
This Award acknowledges significant achievement towards financial inclusion, as do the Reuben James Summerlin Scholarships, which were first awarded last year. The Scholarship recipients, three people from the Pacific Islands region, including Ms Zenash Galmai from PNG.
Let me leave you with this thought. PNG can be a global leader of emerging economies if we continue to use effective innovation to help people achieve financial security. Our job is to continue to work together to bring useful financial services technology to the people of PNG. From here, we can show the rest of the world ‘how to’.
Reuben would be proud!