The speakers also stressed on the role played by regulators regarding financial inclusion
To ensure complete financial inclusion, stakeholders must come to a common platform to undertake a holistic approach for effectiveness of the initiatives taken to bring people within financial coverage, speakers at a discussion said on Saturday.
Financial sector leaders and experts made the remark during the "2019 Financial Inclusion Summit" held at Lakeshore Hotel, Dhaka, yesterday.
University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) organized the summit, which was inaugurated by Planning Minister MA Mannan.
The speakers also stressed on the role played by regulators regarding financial inclusion. They suggested all regulators must strive to include rural and low income people in the financial sector.
Professor Imran Rahman, special advisor to the board of trustees of ULAB, Sajid Amit, director of Center for Enterprise and Society and Executive MBA of ULAB, Kamal Quadir, CEO of bKash Ltd, Rebecca Rouse, director of financial inclusion at Innovations for Poverty Action, Md Arfan Ali, Managing Director of Bank Asia, Farzana Chowdhury, managing director of Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd, and Bhavana Srivastava, associate director of inclusive finance and banking at MicroSave, were present at the discussion.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said, in the last few years, the picture of rural areas has changed. Rural people are being brought into the fold of development through the offering of various benefits, including categorized allowances and others facilities. Electricity has been reached to every household in rural areas.
Noting that it is very much possible to address poverty and inequality through financial inclusion, he said a big portion of the country’s economy was outside the purview of the financial sector a few years back.
“But, if we can expedite financial inclusion, then we’ll be more benefited and for this we’re increasing the movement of money through banking in the rural areas, agent banking, bKash……we’ve also enacted laws and asked banks to open branches in villages,” he said.
During a panel discussion, bKash CEO Kamal Quadir said: "Now the rural people such as farmers, fishermen, and rickshaw pullers, are involved in the digital financial sector through bKash, thus proving that low income people are slowly becoming part of the financial inclusion process."
He also credited the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, which works under Bangladesh Bank, for motivating organizations like bKash to target low income people in their businesses.
Farzana Chowdhury of Green Delta Insurance said more incentives should be added to involve poor people in the financial sector. She sought the attention of policy makers in this regard.
"Nibedita is a unique insurance product. The product has played an important role in women's financial security," she added.
Bank Asia Managing Director Md Arfan Ali said as e-commerce is growing faster, they need to tap the huge potential of technology to make digital payment systems more accessible.
He also cited how agent banking has changed in rural areas in recent times, which is also striving for financial inclusion.
"Changes are apparent in the financial market, as banks are going to the people," he added. "For sustainable bank development, we need to evolve our products and services further. In some countries, bank accounts are almost like a fundamental human right."
During her keynote speech, Rebecca Rouse, director of financial inclusion at Innovations for Poverty Action, said digital transfers reduce sender and recipient costs, thus improving effectiveness.
She cited an example in Kenya, where mobile money transfer platforms are accessible by one another, which also reduces time spent on transferring money by 7-10%.
Rebecca also spoke about financial inclusion in Mexico, where beneficiaries of a cash transfer program with digital payments used debit cards to check their balances frequently. This, she added, increased trust in the country's banking system by at least 10%, which a survey from her organization had found out.
Professor Imran Rahman, ULAB special advisor to the board of trustees, said financial inclusion is a powerful tool in the development agenda. " In Bangladesh, stakeholders such as mobile financial services, banks, local and international NGOs, the central bank, fintech companies, universities, and others, are engaging in financial inclusion.