Dr. Eliki Boletawa, Director, Policy Programs and Implementation, AFI

3 June 2024

PIRI Meetings – Opening Remarks by Dr. Eliki Boletawa, AFI

Good morning and Bula vinaka!

I bring you warm and pleasant greetings from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI). It is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to this bi-annual Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) meeting, co-hosted by the Reserve Bank of Fiji, here in the beautiful paradise of Natadola, Nadi. As we gather in this remarkable setting, let us take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and the gracious hospitality of our Fijian hosts.

I would also like to convey warm greetings from our Executive Director, Alfred Hannig, who unfortunately cannot be with us today due to unforeseen circumstances. He wishes great success for the PIRI meetings and hopes to meet with you all at the GPF in El Salvador.

Before we proceed, I would like to address the recent devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea. On May 24, 2024, a massive landslide in the Yambali village of the Lagaip-Porgera District in Enga Province caused extensive devastation, burying numerous homes and displacing many residents.

This tragic event underscores the vulnerability of our region to natural calamities and the urgent need for improved disaster preparedness and response mechanisms. On behalf of the AFI network and our PIRI family, I extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt support to the people of Papua New Guinea. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our newly appointed and re-appointed PIRI Governors. Governor Elizabeth Genia, as the first female Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, and Governor August Letlet, leading the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu. Congratulations also to Governor Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari and Governor Caroline Abel on their reappointments at the Central Bank of Samoa and the Central Bank of Seychelles respectively. These appointments highlight the high bar PIRI sets in female institutional leadership as a region within the AFI network, showcasing the great diversity and strength across our leadership.

While there are many stories and lived experiences of individuals, small business owners, and communities across our countries, I choose today to speak as the voice of all rather than one.

This gathering is a testament to our collective commitment as stewards and custodians of financial stability, inclusivity, and sustainability in the Pacific region. We are here to discuss and deliberate on policies and innovations that protect, empower, and secure the future of the lives, livelihoods, and living standards of all Pacific Islanders.

Our role as financial regulators and central banks is pivotal in driving forward the agenda of financial inclusion and resilience, particularly through inclusive green finance and responsible innovation.

The recent devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to protect the lives of our people from climate-related disasters. The loss and disruption caused by such events underscore the importance of our work in creating resilient financial systems that can support recovery and provide security in times of crisis.

Our discussions on Sustainable Futures: Advancing Pacific Resilience through Inclusive Green Finance is not only timely, but more critical than ever, as we seek to develop and implement policies that enhance our resilience against environmental shocks and climate-related emergencies.

Empowering livelihoods across the Pacific is a cornerstone of your mandate as central banks, but also a core of our mission as PIRI. We have all experienced first-hand the great promises and impactful policies in digital financial services (DFS) which can deliver for our people, businesses, and economies.

Mobile money services like M-PAiSA in Fiji and the YouSave initiative in the Solomon Islands are excellent examples of how digital financial services can transform lives. M-PAiSA has facilitated financial inclusion by providing access to banking services for the unbanked, enabling secure and convenient transactions that support daily economic activities.

Similarly, YouSave has empowered Solomon Islanders by offering accessible savings solutions that help build financial security. These initiatives highlight the role of innovative financial products in empowering individuals and communities, fostering economic stability, and enhancing livelihoods.

Can digital innovations such as Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) offer transformative potential to enhance financial inclusion, reduce transaction costs, and improve accessibility for underserved populations, for example, by providing timely payouts based on predefined triggers, for the parametric insurance products in the Pacific, hence, reducing the economic impact of disasters and supports sustainable living standards? This is a good question!

Improving living standards is a goal we all share. Inclusive Green Finance lays the foundation for the right type of policies that are relevant, timely and inclusive in how we protect, prevent, promote, and secure a better quality of life for all Pacific Islanders.

Likewise, the role of digital financial services and responsible innovation cannot be overstated. Our commitment to the Victoria Consensus last year underscores our dedication to leveraging these tools to deepen financial inclusion, ensure stability, and promote integrity across our financial systems.

Dear Leaders, I am therefore, glad when I hear leaders asking these right questions, it is testament of the commitment we share within PIRI to securing the future for all.  

Our commitment to inclusive green finance as embodied in the Sharm El Sheikh Accord is pivotal in addressing the dual challenges of financial inclusion and climate resilience. The Natadola Roadmap to Inclusive Green Finance, which we will discuss and seek to endorse, represents a significant step towards integrating sustainable practices, inclusive policies and collective action into our financial systems in the region. This roadmap will guide our efforts to develop policies that not only mitigate climate risks and build resilience but also promote financial inclusion for the most vulnerable populations.

As we look to the future, the value of collaboration cannot be overstated. By working together, we harness our collective strength to address the complex challenges we face. A shared and single agenda allows us to align our efforts, pool our resources, and leverage our diverse perspectives to create a greater impact. This unity not only enables us to achieve more but also ensures that the benefits of our work are felt across all communities in the Pacific.

It is therefore with great excitement; I announce that AFI has recently secured funding partnerships with two new funders: the French Development Agency (AFD) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). AFD supports the Inclusive Green Finance efforts in the region as well as globally, and a new project supported by FCDO aims to evaluate the feasibility of developing a regional SupTech or RegTech tool as an inclusive digital infrastructure, with the intent of enhancing regulatory harmonization and efficiency.

The contributions of our partners, funders, and stakeholders are invaluable in this endeavor as with many before and the more to come, as they provide the resources, expertise, and collaborative spirit necessary for our success.

In conclusion, let us embrace this opportunity to reflect on our shared vision, engage in meaningful discussions, and take decisive actions towards a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for all Pacific Islanders. Together, with our partners, funders, and stakeholders, we can drive transformative change and build resilient, inclusive financial systems that leave no one behind.

The rope of partnership weaves all that we do together, strengthening our ability to deliver lasting positive outcomes.

Thank you, Bula vinaka! and may our discussions be fruitful and transformative.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2024