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Financial inclusion key to economic growth and social welfare, says SBP governor

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Mar 05, 2024

KARACHI: The governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Jameel Ahmad, emphasised the importance of financial inclusion for economic growth and social welfare at the opening ceremony of Pakistan Financial Literacy Week (PFLW) on Monday.

Ahmad said that access to financial services was a fundamental right and a key driver of economic development and the central bank was committed to empowering citizens by providing them with the tools and knowledge needed to participate fully in the economy.

“As the central bank of Pakistan, our commitment to fostering financial inclusion is unwavering. We recognise that access to financial services is a fundamental right, and our mission is to empower citizens by providing them with the tools and knowledge needed to participate fully in the economy,” Ahmad said in his keynote speech at the inaugural event of PFLW.

The governor said the SBP has introduced specialised schemes to enhance access to finance. These schemes include the SME Asaan Finance or SAAF Scheme, Refinance and Credit Guarantee Scheme for Women Entrepreneurs, Line of Credit for MSMEs, and Prime Minister’s Youth Business and Agriculture Loan Scheme.

“I am happy to share that these initiatives have made an impact on advancing financial inclusion in Pakistan,” he said. As of June 2023, there were around 177 million bank accounts in Pakistan. Of these, 83 million are unique accounts, which represent 60 percent of the 137 million adult population, according to the governor.

The total number of accounts owned by women is 49 million, of which unique accounts are 29 million. These 29 million unique accounts represent more than 43 percent of the female adult population.

“Although the financial inclusion indicators have shown improvement over the past few years, significant efforts are still required to catch up with regional and peer economies,” he said. “In our strategic plan for the next five years, 'SBP Vision 2028', we aim to strengthen the financial inclusion framework through targeted policy initiatives with enhanced focus on digital means,” he added.

The governor said that an inclusive financial sector is not only important for the overall growth of the banking industry but also augments monetary policy transmission channels and increases its effectiveness. Ahmad went on to add that SBP has always been working on increasing the availability and utilization of financial services for people and businesses to meet their financial services needs in a fair and dignified manner.

The key initiatives taken for expanding financial services to the unbanked and underbanked segments of society include the implementation of national-level strategies and policies such as the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, National Financial Literacy Programme, and Banking on Equality Policy.

The second session of the event included a panel discussion, where experts and thought leaders explored the future landscape of digital finance. The discussion delved into emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities in the rapidly evolving digital financial ecosystem. Panelists, representing diverse sectors, shared insights on how technology is reshaping the financial industry and discussed strategies to ensure a secure and inclusive digital finance landscape.