ISLAMABAD: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, said here on Tuesday that Pakistan had built one of the strongest foundations for financial inclusion in the world.
She was speaking at the launching ceremony of the Universal Financial Access initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The queen said new regulations had supported the emergence of branchless banking, a growing microfinance sector, effective payments systems and a more constructive approach to customer identification.
Pakistan, she said, was aware of the importance of financial inclusion to people’s everyday life, adding that the national strategy envisioned providing access to financial services to 50 per cent of the adults by 2020.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim praised the efforts made by Pakistan in the field of financial access and said that the bottom 40 per cent had done very well over the past few years. Increasing access to finances was important and crucial for the economy, he added.
He said private sector created 90 per cent of jobs. Providing access to finances will reduce corruption and cut down administrative costs.
He said that although there were signs of improvement in the country’s security situation, but much needed to be done in this regard.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the government’s development policy agenda was based on the principle of inclusive economic growth so that its benefits could reach all segments of the society.
SBP Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said that access to financial services improved in Pakistan from 12 per cent of population in 2008 to 23 per cent in 2015. The universal initiative will help accelerate this pace and serve as a catalyst for improving socio-economic conditions and poverty alleviation.
NFIS MEETING: Queen Maxima also attended a meeting of the National Finance Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) Council presided over by Mr Dar.
The queen was briefed on the vision, goals and objectives of the NFIS Council.
The strategy adopted in 2015 envisions that individuals and firms can access and use a range of quality payments, savings, credit and insurance services which meet their needs with dignity and fairness.
The meeting was informed that the financial inclusion strategy, particularly the aim of enhancing the percentage of adult population having bank accounts to 50 per cent by the year 2020.
The preparation of NFIS’s ‘action plan’ by technical committees and implementation of the World Bank’s Country Support Programme are the next steps towards financial inclusion objectives.
Queen Maxima appreciated measures taken for promotion of financial inclusion. The country is on the right track in this regard. She said the UN fully supported Pakistan’s efforts for financial inclusion.
“You are not alone in this effort, we shall always be working with you” to promote financial inclusion which has the key objective of increasing access of common people to financial institutions and services.
Mr Dar lauded the support extended by World Bank in the sphere of financial inclusion, and made special mention of the Financial Inclusion Support Framework (FISF) of World Bank that supported governments, regulators and other stakeholders for technical assistance, advisory services, and capacity building.
It aims to accelerate and increase effectiveness of reforms and other country-led actions that help achieve national financial inclusion targets.
FISF for Pakistan is a $2.97 million facility which is to be implemented during 2016-2018.
The meeting was attended by Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood, the SBP governor, senior officials of the SECP, PTA and FBR and secretaries of finance of provincial governments.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2016