Bangladesh should strengthen its effort to build an inclusive financial system to provide safe, quality and appropriate financial services to all people, those living in poverty and remote areas in particular. This comprehensive system should be able to ensure access of financially capable clients to a range of quality financial services at affordable prices, with convenience, dignity, and consumer protections, delivered by a range of providers in a stable, competitive market.
Speakers expressed these views at a discussion session today on Wednesday (31 October 2018), organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital. BRAC arranged the event to observe Financial Inclusion Week, introduced and coordinated by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), a Washington DC based non-profit think tank.
Themed on ‘getting inclusion right’ the timeline for Financial Inclusion Week 2018 is from October 29 to November 2.
Shameran Abed, director, BRAC Microfinance, Maria A May, programme officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ashraful Islam, country project coordinator, SHIFT SAARC, Bangladesh at United Nations Capital Development Fund, and Feisal Hussain, team leader, Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh, Nathan Associates, spoke at the discussion. Rakib Ovi, programme manager, Social Innovation Lab, BRAC, moderated the session.
The speakers mentioned that at present in Bangladesh 50 per cent of the population aged 15 years or more do not have any individual or group account in any bank or financial institutions. For women of this age group the percentage is as high as 64 per cent. They said to build an appropriately inclusive financial system we have to first identify the factors preventing a very large number of people from accessing institutional financial services.
“Having full inclusion means creating access to finance that people actually need and the goal should be to give everyone access through a financial institution. But the reality is, traditional banks are not interested about financial inclusion,” said Shameran Abed.
Women are not fully in charge of financial management in the household and so huge gender gaps exist in financial inclusion in Bangladesh, said Maria A May, stressing adequate initiatives should be undertaken to address the issue.
The draft of the national financial inclusion strategy is almost ready, Feisal Hussain informed the audience, saying that financial service providers and digital ecosystems are two key themes of the strategy.