Photos: Pacific leaders at the PIRI High-Level Forum (left); Governor Simeon Athy, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu (RBV) and Chairman PIRI during opening remarks (right).

Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) High-Level Forum
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Honiara, Solomon Islands

Opening Remarks from Governor Simeon Athy, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu (RBV) and Chairman PIRI

Governor Denton Rarawa

Colleague Governors

Chief Guest, Mr. Gane Simbe, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands

Reverend Mareta Tahu

Deputy Executive Director of AFI, Mr. Norbert Mumba

Members of the PIRI Expert Group on Financial Inclusion Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning to you all.

It is my pleasure, as Chair of the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), to welcome you all to the 5th PIRI High Level Meeting in this beautiful Heritage Park in Honiara, Solomon Islands. I have to say Governor Rarawa and his team have done an excellent job in getting us all here.  ‘’Tankiu tumas’’, on behalf of all of us, to you Governor, and Deputy Governor Forau for the arrangements and the warm hospitality accorded us on our arrival. Let me also thank AFI, through Deputy Executive Director Mumba who is with us this morning, for assisting in the preparation of what is without doubt, an important list of agenda before us. 

I acknowledge the preparatory work of the 10th meeting of the Experts Group on Financial Inclusion Policy (EGFIP) for the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI), held on June 3rd 2019 in Honiara, and wish to thank EGFIP members for the technical input into much of our work. I applaud them and AFI for their its work on the Pacific Regional Regulatory Sandbox, the De-risking Action Plan and others that will make the implementation of PIRI’s work plan much easier.

As Chair, I draw your attention once more to the significance of PIRI as a regional initiative (RI) in addressing the unique constraints facing each of us in our drive to improve financial inclusion within a region that has one of the highest unbanked rates in the world. The geographical isolation of our communities, low population density and the relatively underdeveloped state of the banking, telecommunications and physical infrastructure continue to pose significant challenges. This regional initiative provides an opportunity for us to tackle these daunting issues through collaboration and cooperation, both within PIRI members, and across the AFI network.

Since our meeting in Apia, Samoa in May 2018, and the Global Policy Forum (GPF) in Sochi, Russia in September 2018, I believe we have maintained momentum in our progress of expanding and deepening financial inclusion in the region.  I acknowledge the joint efforts of our members for these achievements during the last two years under RBV’s chairmanship. I am sure we have heard of some of our specific country updates during the EGFIP and will hear of some more over the remaining days here in Honiara. But we need to continue.

Theme for the 5th PIRI Meeting

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot underscore enough the relevance of the theme for this year’s PIRI meeting “Advancing Green Finance through Youth Inclusion” for our region today.  I am as aware as you all are, of the daunting issues arising from climate change, given that the region is considered the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, and the need for policies to respond appropriately to the aspirations of the youth, which make up a significant proportion of our population.

Let me note the importance of Inclusive Green Finance (IGF) in our workstream, which allows us to appropriately advance our work on disaster preparedness and resilience particularly for the marginalized and disadvantaged sector.  For example, our finding in Vanuatu suggests that only 5% of the households are insured and a significant proportion are not aware of insurance nor how it works. A large segment of the MSME sector have no insurance coverage.   The youth have a low participation rate in business ventures and there is clearly a need to improve their participation in financial inclusion.

Even as difficult as these problems are, we need to find solutions.  I do note however that the road is much easier through both our PIRI and the wider AFI networks which offer us an excellent peer-learning platform to tackle many of these issues.

And as a product of this network, I am delighted this morning to launch the publication AFI Special Report: Inclusive Green Finance: A Survey of the Policy Landscape (press clicker to launch the report on the screen).

This publication outlines why and how financial sector policies can enable mitigation and build resilience to climate change. This is a unique publication, bringing together the 4P policy frame work on Inclusive Green Finance on and sharing what some of AFIs member institutions are working on in these areas. To launch this report here at the PIRI High-level Forum is a milestone for the whole network. In our region we have been driving the inclusive green finance agenda throughout AFI and we have a continued strong commitment from the leaders to this agenda.

I wish to thank AFI for this important initiative and I am sure it will be an important document for us policy makers.

I take this opportunity to wish everyone successful deliberations over the course of the next 2 days in finding workable solutions.

I wish to conclude by thanking all of you for your support during my tenure as Chair of AFI PIRI. It has also been an exciting and a very rewarding journey.  I thank AFI, for its excellent support and its technical team that made the journey so much easier. I sincerely thank my colleague Governors for their tremendous wisdom in guiding the work of PIRI and for their unwavering support to me as its Chair. 

Finally, I call on all of us to offer your continuing support to the incoming PIRI Chair, Bank of Papua New Guinea. Let me assure the new Chair that the RBV steadfast support will be unwavering as you take the region into the next two years in its financial inclusion journey.

Colleague Governors

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you all.


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