Governor Ali Hashim of the Maldives Monetary Authority delivers his remarks during the launching ceremony of South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII)

7 September 2022

Launching of South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII) – Remarks by Governor Ali Hashim of the Maldives Monetary Authority

7 September 2022
Dead Sea, Jordan

The Executive Director of AFI, Dr. Alfred Hannig,
The Governor of Central Bank of Jordan, Dr. Adel Al-Sharkas,
Esteemed Governors, Management of AFI,
Distinguished chairs and vice chairs of AFI regional initiatives,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalam Alaikum and a good afternoon to you all. I am very pleased and honored to welcome you all to the launching of South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII). I take this opportunity to extend the thanks of Maldives Monetary Authority and the rest of the region to AFI for this important initiative. We are confident that this initiative will be fruitful for regional member countries in promoting innovative financial inclusion policies within the South Asia Region.

Today, as we are gathered here at the launching of SARFII, it is important to recognize the opportunities and challenges that exist in achieving financial inclusion goals and identify strategic approaches to advance cooperation on financial inclusion in the South Asian Region. While policy makers in this region are committed heavily on the mandate of financial inclusion, it is worth noting that a significant proportion of the population in the region are still unbanked.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Under MMA’s leadership as the first Chair of SARFII, we aim to understand the underlying challenges in achieving financial inclusion and will strive to utilize the opportunities that exist in accelerating financial inclusion in the region. One of the key objectives of this initiative is also to harmonize financial inclusion policy objectives in South Asia Region. To this end, MMA will work closely with AFI, along with all regional member countries to facilitate high level policy discussions, peer learnings, in-country implementations and play our role in elevating regional voice on key financial inclusion policy issues from South Asia Region.

Roughly 1 billion women living in the poorest 40 percent of developing-country households remain outside the formal financial system, according to the Global Findex database. Despite significant progress in recent years a gender gap persists. This gap remains a fundamental challenge to ensuring equitable access to finance across the South Asia region as well. Important consideration should be given to minimize the gender gap in access to finance which currently stands at 18% in South Asia Region. Regional member countries need to focus on coordinating and formulating gender-sensitive financial inclusion polices focused on minimizing the gender disparity.

The Covid-19 pandemic, though its impact has been devasting, has taught us to embrace the importance of digital transformation in building a more resilient and inclusive financial sector. During the past couple of years, digital financial services have gained prominence across the globe, emphasizing the need for policy makers to take necessary measures to facilitate digital financial services. MMA as the Chair of SARFII, envisage seamless cross-border payments within South Asia Region, to boost our economies and achieve inclusive growth. Regional cooperation is important in this aspect as harmonizing financial inclusion policies and regulatory frameworks are crucial in achieving this goal.

Financial education and literacy are considered by many as pillars of financial inclusion. The digital transformation of financial services while a boon for financial inclusion is not without its own challenges. The risk of excluding certain sectors of the population such as the elderly as well as the increased risks of scams and fraud require us as policy makers to fine tune our approach to digital financial services. To mitigate these risks, as policy makers and regulators, we should commit ourselves to enhance digital financial literacy and introduce effective regulatory frameworks to facilitate financial consumer protection and empowerment. Policies should be adopted to increase digital literacy among the population as a means, to bridge the digital gap.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I conclude my speech by once again stressing on the importance of regional cooperation in accelerating financial inclusion and inclusive growth in the region. As policy makers and regulators of the South Asia region, we must ensure that the seeds of cooperation being sowed here today will germinate and grow into effective instruments for achieving shared regional prosperity and social progress.

I once again thank AFI for their tremendous effort to promote financial inclusion in the South Asia region and around the world. At the same time, it would be remiss of me if I don’t thank our excellent hosts. Thank you and a round of applause for the excellent hospitality provided by the Central Bank of Jordan.

Thank you.

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