October 16, 2018
Bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.
A warm welcome to all our delegates from across the region.
I am delighted to join you today to mark the 10th Year Anniversary of the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program (or PFIP in short).
Ten years is indeed a milestone achievement for a development program, and I am sure many of you here can attest that it has been an exciting journey with PFIP.
In a world driven by the cash economy and international flows of capital, many people in developing countries, still remain excluded from formal financial services.
For these people, this exclusion exacerbates their challenges to borrow or save money to improve their livelihoods.
The Australian Government has long supported financial inclusion initiatives, and is committed to broadening its focus on access to financial services to further break down the barriers to economic participation by the poor.
That is why we have invested around 29 million Australian dollars into PFIP to date.
This support is consistent with Australia’s commitment to promoting economic growth and the empowerment of women in the Pacific. This includes our commitment to helping Pacific Island Countries meet their Sustainable Development Goals, the G20’s Financial Inclusion Vision 2020 for promoting economic resilience and strengthening broad based growth, and the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meetings’ 2020 Money Pacific Goals – that recognised the high levels of financial exclusion in the region, and the impact on financial stability and growth.
As we mark the 10 Year Anniversary of PFIP, we acknowledge the significant contribution the program has made to increase financial access in the South Pacific, and in particular its commitment to focusing on the most vulnerable and ensuring that PFIP initiatives are inclusive.
PFIP’s strategic partnerships with an array of private sector players, government agencies, and central banks across Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have led to over two million Pacific islanders accessing financial services.
Around 44 per cent of these customers are women.
Whilst these numbers are impressive, what is most important are the learnings and the impact of PFIP’s work.
PFIP’s case studies are showing that its 39 projects implemented across the region are having a positive impact on low-income earners and the informal sector that make up the backbone of most economies in the Pacific.
The program’s work on financial inclusion is helping Pacific islanders’ improve their access to education, health care, energy, and economic opportunities – which contributes to improving their livelihoods.
PFIP’s work in the region on digital financial services, micro-pensions, school fee payments, micro-loans, pay-as-you-go electricity and remittances, has also been exciting and encouraging as access to these financial services also promote social inclusion and builds self-confidence and empowerment, in particular among women.
PFIP’s work with policymakers in its six targeted countries has helped bring about recognition of financial inclusion as a national development priority and supported the establishment and institutionalization of National Financial Inclusion Taskforces made up of financial sector representatives in each country.
In Fiji, PFIP’s support for the Financial Education initiative has resulted in financial education being incorporated into Fiji’s Ministry of Education curriculum for Years 1-12.
This means, that annually, around 200,000 students are leaving the school system with the requisite financial knowledge, skills and confidence to better manage their money, make investments, and interact with the financial sector.
This project has won two international awards and has been used as a best practice example globally.
It is also heartening to note a few of PFIP’s innovative interventions are being scaled up significantly, and taken forward by implementing partners in a financially sustainable manner.
For example, in the Solomon Islands, PFIP collaborated with the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund to rollout a proto-type micro-pension product targeting the informal sector – which makes up about 80 per cent of the country’s population.
Using the innovation lab approach, they developed a product called “You-Save”, to test client response to mobile payment interfaces, distribution and marketing.
By July 2018, close to 3,000 people had registered for the product surpassing the target of 500 people.
The project is now being scaled across the nine provinces in the Solomon Islands targeting up to 20,000 Solomon Islanders in the informal sector.
Another example is the Fiji Care bundled micro insurance product was initially offered to sugarcane, dairy, rice, and copra farmers in Fiji through their respective cooperatives in July 2017, and totaled 12,230 beneficiaries in just one year.
In August this year, the scheme was extended to all civil servants and social welfare recipients by the Fiji Government and is expected to cover over 107,000 Fijians.
Since its launch, around 13 per cent of Fiji’s adult population have been covered under this innovative product.
As mentioned earlier, PFIP’s work to support financial access for those in rural areas has been encouraging, and I understand that a field trip has been arranged for tomorrow to allow all of you to see first-hand how PFIPs work with Vodafone Fiji’s Mobile Village Agents is reflective of their efforts in Fiji…I encourage you all to attend.
Yet as we reflect on PFIP’s achievements over the last 10 years, we acknowledge the time and commitment necessary to achieve development impact and change in each of the six Pacific Island Countries.
We recognize that none of PFIPs substantive achievements would have been possible without the support, commitment and efforts of a range of stakeholders including:
So I take this opportunity to also congratulate all of you for what has been achieved to date.
I commend the wonderful work of all involved in this exciting journey, and look forward to a continued partnership to support sustainable development outcomes in the Pacific region.
With these few words, I congratulate the PFIP team and partners on your achievements and wish you all every success in your endeavors.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.