Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director, delivers opening remarks during AFI's 6th Pacific Island Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable Virtual Meeting, 20 May 2021.

21 May 2021

6th Pacific Island Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable

6th Pacific Island Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable, Virtual Meeting

20 May 2021


Opening remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director 

Honorable Governors and Heads of Institutions, Governor Loi Bakani, Bank Papua New Guinea, and Chair PIRI, Governor Atalina Maiava Ainuu-Enari, Central Bank of Samoa, and Co-chair PIRI, Governor Abraão F. de Vasconselos, Banco Central de Timor-Leste, Governor Dr. Luke Forau, Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Governor Ariff Ali, Reserve Bank of Fiji, Governor Simeon Malachi Athy, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, Governor Caroline Abel, Central Bank of Seychelles, Governor Dr. Sione Ngongo Kioa, National Reserve Bank of Tonga, Esteemed Deputy Governors, Delegates from AFI PIRI member institutions, Colleagues from AFI management unit, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished leaders,

Good morning, good afternoon, and a warm welcome to the 6th leaders’ roundtable of the Pacific Islands regional Initiative (PIRI). I hope you are safe and in good health as we convene virtually to chart the next phase of accelerated growth for financial inclusion policy, intervention, and outcomes in the region.

First, kindly permit me to express my sincere gratitude to Governor Loi Bakani, Bank of Papua New Guinea, and indeed the team from BPNG, for their excellent support as co-host for this meeting. While we would have loved to enjoy the sights and hospitality Port Moresby is acclaimed for, considering the prevailing global circumstances, we very much welcome the same level of warmth and spirit of camaraderie extended to all as we meet virtually. We do hope for physical meetings soon!

Secondly, let me start by sharing some news about the position and outlook of our alliance. While we recognize the global health-crisis presented some shocks that many could not have forecasted, we are reminded daily (and in retrospect) the resilience present in humanity’s ability and capability to innovate and birth creative ideas in its most difficult circumstance, and this grows exponentially when network effect is applied. I am excited to report, this has been the experience of the network.

Furthermore, AFI has swiftly assisted members by implementing a COVID-19 Policy Response Project that has reinforced the network’s peer learning on sharing best practices for mitigation and resilience policy responses that address the adverse effects of COVID-19 on disproportionately excluded population. AFI’s collaborative approach is effectively applied to advance members financial inclusion policy implementation priorities at global level- through strategic partnership and initiatives, AFI has engaged with SSBs, advance economies regulatory institutions and other global institutions to elevate convergence topics that affect both emerging and advanced economies, such as new risks in financial inclusion such as cybersecurity and balancing financial inclusion, stability and integrity.

The AFI Strategy Phase III endorsed by the network is proving vital in strengthening the role of our members in providing global financial inclusion policy leadership. Under this strategy, AFI is committed to:

  • enhance member practical policy knowledge and implementation through platforms including the global working groups and regional experts’ group on financial inclusion policy (EGFIP),
  • increase policy implementation support programs via the in-country implementation, technical support, and grants,
  • reinforce AFI as a hub and content center for financial inclusion policies by sharing quality and detailed guidance, with collaboration from developed countries through the 3D dialogues, to meet member demand and access to evidence-based policy solutions, as we continue to thrive on knowledge exchange and peer learning on priority topics of interests,
  • expand delivery of programs that target the disproportionately excluded population and sectors of the economy, such as women, youth and MSME’s, as well as build resilience and adaptation of such segments against the impact of climate change.

In adhering with global travel guidance and considerations for member safety, I regret to inform the postponement of the Global Policy Forum (GPF) initially scheduled to be held in September 2021. For us to mitigate the consequences of not holding a GPF for two consecutive years, we will conduct a high-level “stop-gap” event that will provide AFI leaders a platform to deliberate on effective policy and strategic solutions in mitigating the current pandemic and useful lessons for recovery. The event will bring together leaders from the AFI network and likeminded stakeholders.

Thirdly, we recognize that while the world tackle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pacific Islands have been resourceful in ensuring it’s spared from large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks, recording about 30,000 total cases. Yet, the region is nonetheless being adversely impacted by the downstream effects of the pandemic and climate change. As estimated by the IMF, consequences such as dwindling inflow of remittance reaching about 40 percent decline in Tonga and averaging approximately 20 percent across the region, record low tourism receipts due to travel restrictions, social and physical distancing, disrupting to supply chains and key industries such as fisheries, are all contributing to several economic concerns including youth unemployment.

However, we are confident in the promise of an inclusive, digital, and prosperous future, because PIRI members have consistently demonstrated resilience, led as springboards for innovation and charted new pathways of opportunities to achieve this objective.  It is with great joy I celebrate with you distinguished members; the outstanding feats already achieved in the region.

PIRI as an initiative has come a long way since its inception in 2014 at the Global Policy Forum in Maputo, Mozambique and its officiation in Dili, Timor-Leste in 2015. Since then, it has championed gender inclusive finance by launching the Denarau Action Plan, and become the first initiative in the AFI network to outline regional policy commitments on financial inclusion and climate change. I am proud to share that all PIRI members have made commitments to the Maya Declaration, largely around financial literacy and education, and have achieved 36 percent of set targets. 

Colleagues, it is also worth noting the excellent work and accomplishments already achieved by PIRI, leading the efforts, and successfully launching the first coordinated regional regulatory sandbox, designed to encourage the participation of FinTech in driving financial inclusion goals. Furthermore, the group has been exceptional in actively tackling regional issues around de-risking with the adoption of the De-risking Action Plan, climate change and inclusive green finance (IGF), with the overwhelming support for Disaster Risk Reduction framework, and PIRI member representation in the new IGF Working Group.

We are excited for a new year of ground-breaking initiatives that will move the needle towards financial inclusion for all. While the journey will not be easy, I am confident that AFI’s regional initiatives will continue to deliver high-quality policy guidance and propel the network towards achieving its aspirations. 

AFI as a family of peers is committed and will continue to support and enable our members, individually and as a collective, in policy implementation particularly those designed to mitigate the harsh economic effects of the pandemic and climate change. For example, the Bank of Papua New Guinea are currently undertaking a COVID-19 Business Pulse Survey to understand the economic standing of MSMEs in the country and to build a comprehensive MSME database for future policymaking. Similarly, the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu are working on setting up a MSME Financing Facility which will enable the MSME sector in Vanuatu, of which 30% are women, to have access to finance for business startups and for business financing.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to remind all esteemed leaders present today, that PIRI continue to lead and demonstrate innovation, as we implement and formally launch the Pacific Regional Regulatory Sandbox this year, operationalise the recommendations of the de-risking action plan to support safe and affordable remittances and digital payments, and leverage digital technologies in a responsible and safe manner as we reach out to vulnerable segments of the society such as the poor, women, MSMEs and displaced and affected persons from climate change related events.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations today.

Thank you.

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