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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Specialist, CFI
Last week the President of Mexico launched the country’s long-delayed National Financial Inclusion Strategy. The comprehensive plan engages the spheres of private banking, social welfare, public education, telecommunications, and more to extend quality financial services to the 56 percent of adults in the country who remain without a formal bank account. Although the plan was nearly full-formed three years ago and has since sat on the proverbial shelf, the enactment of the strategy represents a reaffirmed commitment to financial inclusion across the Mexican Government, including the Office of the President, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Public Education.
The national strategy is structured as a six-pillared plan. The Ministry of Public Education (Secretaria de Educacion Publica) will promote financial education starting with children and youth by incorporating related content into the curriculum of public education. Financial education will also be embedded in government programs like Prospera, Credito Joven, and Mujeres PYME. Prospera is Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program, which has 6.5 million beneficiaries. Credito Joven is a youth inclusion program introduced in February 2015 that aims to empower young people, in part by providing credit to those with no credit histories. Mujeres PYME offers finance and business development support to small businesses led by women.
> Posted by Hannah Sherman and Jeffrey Riecke, Project Associate and Communications Specialist, CFI
In terms of financial inclusion, Haiti has much to be excited about. That might come as a surprise as it is considered to have among the worst environments for financial inclusion efforts, at least according to the Global Microscope. In the 2015 Microscope rankings, Haiti was at the very bottom of the list. Though this 2015 score reflected great progress compared to 2014. In fact, Haiti’s score improved year-on-year more than nearly any other country. This was due in large part to the development of a national financial inclusion strategy. However, Haiti’s path forward, including the implementation of this national strategy, is less than straightforward.
Haiti is still very poor. More than three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and about two-thirds are unemployed. According to the Global Findex, in 2014 only 19 percent of Haitians aged 15 or above had access to a bank account, compared with 51 percent across all of Latin America and the Caribbean. Nine percent of the adult population had formal savings in 2014 (compared with 14 percent regionally), and 5 percent were formal borrowers (compared with 11 percent in the region). Small and medium-sized businesses and microenterprises make up the majority of the country’s jobs, and their access to finance is extremely limited.
But in recent years, Haiti has achieved impressive advances in its policy, regulation, and enabling infrastructure. About a year ago the Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH, the central bank) passed the national financial inclusion strategy, which was supported by the World Bank and other international organizations. Among the strategy’s priority areas are financial education and consumer protection. In July of last year, USAID and Haiti’s Office of Economic Growth and Agricultural Development announced plans to work towards expanding financial access in support of this strategy. Their effort focuses on harnessing partnerships across stakeholder types to pilot and develop interventions.
> Posted by Jayshree Venkatesan, Financial Inclusion Consultant
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) Indian national financial inclusion strategy was launched with much fanfare exactly a year ago by the government. As we pass the first year anniversary, there have been a number of reports that indicate that the program is not as successful as claimed, either in reaching the poorest of the poor, or in preventing dormancy of accounts. The World Bank’s latest Global Findex study says the number of people accessing a formal bank account in India increased from 35 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014. The same study also indicates that India is among the countries with the highest percentage of dormant accounts at 43 percent, meaning the PMJDY accounts that have been opened have a high likelihood of becoming dormant.
The idea of opening bank accounts to financially include the poor is by no means a novel idea, and has been tried in various forms over the past decade in the Indian context. While there have been challenges with access, I argue the bigger issue is account dormancy. In India, it’s often the case that after access is extended, accounts remain dormant, which results in high costs for banks. This in turn tends to add to the perception that the poor are unbankable and supports a vicious cycle with bad behavior by bankers to dissuade poor customers.
My research across 368 households in four districts in Tamil Nadu, a state that has fairly high literacy rates, social security programs, and access to bank branches, indicates that awareness about the PMJDY remains low at 16 percent of the households surveyed. If this is the scenario in a state like Tamil Nadu, it is safe to say that the situation is far worse in states that have lower bank branch penetration and social indices.
> Posted by Center Staff
Last week Palestinian government officials announced plans to create a national financial inclusion strategy, an initiative that would put it on a short list of two countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that have nationwide, government-led inclusion plans (Morocco being the other).
The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and the Palestine Capital Markets Authority (PCMA), the country’s central bank and a national regulating body will co-lead the project along with support from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and other public and private groups.
The policies and guidelines of the strategy will aim to facilitate greater access, improve awareness and financial education, and reinforce client protection. An area inviting particular attention is access to credit, which is low for both individuals and SMSEs. The strategy will build on inclusion principles endorsed by the G20, World Bank, AFI, and the OECD Principles on National Strategy for Financial Education.