The Bangko Sentral has a new book titled “No One Left Behind,” with Chelo Banal-Formoso and Linda Bolido as writers, which traces the Philippine financial inclusion journey through the leadership of BSP Governors Rafael B. Buenaventura, Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. and Benjamin E. Diokno. These BSP Governors are visionaries and we can appreciate and admire their aspirations for financial inclusion as exemplified in the excerpts below.

Governor Buenaventura “wanted to accelerate the propagation of proven microfinance technologies as broadly as possible to bring, as a long-term goal, microfinance to every province in the country”. He said microfinance will have its own successes “by providing financial services that the poor want and are willing to pay for at market terms, by maintaining high standards of credit discipline, and by continually educating the public on responsible borrowing”. In his time, he lifted the moratorium on the issuance of licenses for new thrift banks and rural banks and for new bank branches as long as these were focused on microfinance.

Governor Tetangco firmly believed that financial inclusion would increase the economic activity and incomes of the 40 percent Filipinos living on the lower rungs of society, thereby enabling them “to build up assets, prepare against emergencies, and invest in education, health and housing”. Wanting to include marginalized sectors that had long been unserved or underserved by traditional financial institutions, he initiated the formation of a multi-disciplinary body to take responsibility for enlarging the base of Filipinos who shall have greater access to financial services. That cross-sectoral body, called the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, has become a model of collaboration for other developing countries.

Governor Espenilla found achievement in dismantling the barriers to financial inclusion. According to him, typically, the financial system touches only a very small although important segment of the economy, “but by weaving financial inclusion into the more traditional objectives, we are able to reach out to the greater population and come up with policy making that matters for the population”. Governor Espenilla was passionate in seeing that even the poorest Filipinos are benefited by the BSP and that this could be done by reforming the banking system to make it strong, modern and inclusive.

For his part, Governor Diokno adopted financial inclusion as a key component of his vision and his goal “to create an ecosystem that makes it viable for market players to serve the low-income sector by developing the necessary conditions that make formal financial services accessible and compelling for the low-income sector”. In this pursuit, Governor Diokno has expressed his twin goals of shifting 50 percent of retail payment transaction to digital form and achieving 70 percent transaction account ownership among adult Filipinos by 2023. He thus pushed for the National ID System to make it easier for the unbanked to comply with identification requirements in opening bank accounts, which are roadblocks in accessing financial services.

The authors described the book as partly an adventure story, partly a lesson in development financing, partly an examination of innovative leadership, and partly a testimony of faith in the possibility of building a society where no one is left behind. This is the spirit behind the title of the book. They also said that, as narrated, the BSP’s full financial inclusion story is yet to be written and shared and that, with the readiness of BSP to move forward, “this is where the journey continues”.

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The above comments are the personal views of the writer. His email address is dezunigajuan@gmail.com


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/06/24/financial-inclusion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=financial-inclusion)