PM Tells: Key Role Of Banks Reaching to People

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday discussed the critical role played by commercial banks in expanding the reach of financial services and products. His comments came as he opened the Alliance
09 Sep 2016 11:14

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday discussed the critical role played by commercial banks in expanding the reach of financial services and products.

His comments came as he opened the Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2016 Global Policy Forum at the Denarau Convention Centre on Denarau Island.

“Whether a bank is owned by domestic or foreign interests, banks operating in any country must promote financial inclusion,” he emphasised.

“Central banks and reserve banks must advocate and work to ensure that the cost of banking services is not prohibitive to low-income families.

“And that is where our regulators play a very important role.”

Mr Bainimarama acknowledged that Fiji has a solid foundation of financial services and products on offer.

Furthermore, he said our Interchange Network Payments or National Switch Bill, which is currently before Parliament, aims to reduce the costs of electronic transactions.

“It will provide a regulated, centralised environment for using ATMs and Point of Sale Machines,” he said.

“It will give not only banks, but all other entities conducting large transactions, incentive to participate in the National Switch.

“For example, our iTaukei Lands Trust Board, which administers land on behalf of different land-owning units, can disburse lease funds through the National Switch to all individual recipients in the respective land owning units.

“Similarly, our social welfare recipients will also be able to directly access funds through the national switch, thereby reducing the current fees and charges.”

Mr Bainimarama told the over 500 delegates that it is in the best interest of every Fijian consumer that we introduce regulation in our financial system to foster competition at the top and bottom ends of the market.

Collation and reporting

He pointed out another example lies in the collation and reporting of those who access credit.

“Such activity must occur under an appropriate regulatory framework,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“As we previously saw in Fiji, there was no regulation, and only one company was operating in the industry.

“The rules of the game were not clear and this segment in the financial system lacked transparency, so we introduced new laws regulating those providing credit reporting services.

“As a result, we have greater interest from overseas companies and have ended the unfair reporting of credit histories that disproportionately affected those lower on the socio-economic spectrum or who were not part of the elite.

“Truly inclusive financial systems can only develop when a nation has appropriate national frameworks in place.”

Fiji’s commitment

Fiji is co-hosting the 8th Annual AFI Global Policy Forum – the first meeting of the Alliance to be convened in the South Pacific.

It sees the convening of over 500 distinguished financial experts from around the world from over 81 countries.

Mr Bainimarama thanked the delegates for being advocates of financial inclusion for bringing people from the margins and striving to give them access to finance.

He further gave Fiji’ commitment: “We are determined to leave no-one behind on our journey forward as a nation.

“And are conscious more than ever of our responsibilities to the more vulnerable among us – women, children, low income earners, the elderly, the sick and the disabled.

“That commitment to our marginalised groups is matched by my Government’s firm belief in the free market.

“This is the notion that the most enterprising of our people should be given every incentive to work as hard as they can to benefit themselves.

“Because in doing so, they are able to spread their wealth to others by re-investing in our economy and creating jobs.”

Mr Bainimarama indicated that Fiji has embarked on its second National Financial Inclusion Strategic Plan.

“Our target for the current period between now and 2020 is to improve accessibility to financial services from the current 65 per cent of all adults to 85 per cent,” he said.

“Fifty per cent of this increase is improving access for women.”

The Global Policy Forum will conclude today.

Edited by: rachna lal


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