Including the unbanked population into the formal financial system may pose some challenges. But the government is unfazed in its goal of such with the various programs and developments it undertakes.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central monetary authority, has implied the importance of financial inclusion, which means providing equal access to financial services to everyone.
“Access to financial services is important for every household and business. Access to basic financial services, such as savings, payments and credit can make a positive difference in people’s lives,” the BSP said. “Financial inclusion carries the potential of improving the well-being of the poor and the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises. In addition, greater financial inclusion can contribute to financial stability and economic development and is critical to achieving inclusive growth.”
The BSP has likewise noted the importance of financial literacy, as boosting such could greatly improve the numbers of Filipinos being part of the formal financial system.
A study by the World Bank in 2015 showed that most Filipinos lack the necessary knowledge to make the right financial decisions. In a survey it conducted on the same year, the World Bank revealed that only two percent of adult Filipinos could answer three out of seven financial literacy-related questions correctly.
The BSP then pointed out, citing the similar study, that financial habits, formed in childhood, were likely to be carried on to adulthood, thus the importance of inculcating financial literacy in a child as early as possible.
On 25 November, the central bank hosted the two-day Financial Education Stakeholders Expo, which was attended by around a thousand participants from government agencies, private institutions, development partners, international organizations, civic society and the academe.
The expo, supported by the Department of Education, launched the financial-education policy and roadmap, which involve the inclusion of financial literacy to schools’ curriculum.
BSP managing director Pia Roman-Tayag said its implementation was expected to be in full-scale by next year, which spells a 100 percent adoption of financial literacy in schools.
“We will implement it. It’s already in the school’s curricula. Starting next year, it will be fully integrated in their curriculums,” Roman-Tayag said.
Also, the BSP made efforts in educating the workforce, local and international, with the necessary financial knowledge, introducing key basic concepts on savings and investment.
With the emergence of modern technology, the government was quick to recognize and acknowledge such a useful tool in its financial-inclusion initiative.
With the massive adoption of modern technology by Filipinos, smartphones in particular, various financial institutions have discovered a way to bring their services closer to consumers albeit at their fingertips.
BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno noted the rapid pace of digital innovation, as well as the significant figures in terms of the technology’s adoption.
“Digitalization is rapidly and significantly transforming the way we do things in so many aspects of our lives. We are now able to shop, book a vacation adventure, get a cab, sell goods, watch a movie, wherever and whenever, without having to leave the house and stepping into a physical store,” Diokno said.
“The mobile phone has become such a powerful tool, an almost all-in-one instant access to any type of service one might need,” he added.
He then cited the latest figures from the Global Web Index Report, noting the vast number of Internet users in the country reaching over 69 million. Of the overall number, 91 percent have used the platform to search for products, while 62 percent utilized their mobile phones for online purchases.
“For the BSP, this starts with ensuring that more Filipinos have access to a transaction account — in particular, an account that they can use not only to save money, but also to directly send and receive funds to and from anyone. In other words, it’s an account that can be used for digital payments,” Diokno said.
“This is why our financial inclusion and digital payments agenda necessarily go hand-in-hand. One is both an enabler and a requisite for the other,” he added.