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Progress of financial inclusion in BD exciting: Queen Maxima
Dutch Queen Maxima at a views-exchange meeting with development partners and financial technology (Fintech) sector, organised and hosted by the UNDP at the UN offices in the city. - UNB

Progress of financial inclusion in BD exciting: Queen Maxima

It can accelerate progress, empower women, she says
Dhaka, July 10 – UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) Queen Maxima on Wednesday said financial inclusion can empower women and accelerate Bangladesh’s progress and noted significant progress made so far in the country.
“Financial inclusion has increased from 31 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2017 and so this is actually very exciting,” said Queen Maxima mentioning that she is excited with Bangladesh’s progress during the two and half years from her last visit.
The visiting Dutch Queen made the remarks at a views-exchange meeting with development partners and financial technology (Fintech) sector, organised and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the UN offices in the city.
She said: “This is primarily has happened through mobile financial services, so basic technology has played a very important role. Just to give an idea, it went from 2.7 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2017.”
“So of course, given the high-density population of Bangladesh, it’s actually very good because with that amount of people, all the distance you need to move to actually have any access is a lot higher than other countries,” said the Dutch Queen.
However, Maxima also pointed out a number of issues that are holding Bangladesh back in terms of full financial inclusion, or financial inclusion that ‘affects’ all of the Sustainable Development Goals, with gender disparity on top of the list.
“Sixty-five percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts, compared to only 36 percent of women. Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a staggering 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017,” she added.
Earlier Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP, welcomed the Queen and thanked her for visiting Bangladesh twice as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
He said Queen Maxima’s second visit shows her commitment to improving women’s access to financial services and supporting women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.
Representatives of the Fintech stakeholders and development partners pointed out their observations, suggestions and areas of development to increase financial inclusion and lower inequalities to aid Bangladesh in its progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Members of key Fintech organisations like Grameen Phone, bKash, Brac Bank, Bank Asia, Sure cash, D Money, Shop-Up, IFDC and regulators Bangladesh Bank were present in the roundtables.
Key development partners like DFID, IFC, Swiss Embassy, World Bank, UNCDF, Nathan Associates, USAID, IMF, GiIZ, Swisscontact and Helvetas were also present.
Sudipto urged all to finalise and implement the people-centric National Financial Inclusion Strategy soon, to reduce inequality and fight poverty.
Following the roundtable, the Queen met the beneficiaries of UNDP’s Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO), which is a social transfer project for ultra-poor women to be engaged in public works essential for the economic and social life for rural communities.
One of Swapno’s key agenda is financial inclusion so that the beneficiaries – ultra poor women who were widowed, divorced, abandoned or left with a disabled husband – can reap the benefits of financial services to make their lives and that of their children more secure.
In a pilot initiative of the project, more than 2,700 beneficiaries got access to bank accounts and more than Tk 120 million in wages have been disbursed. Around 1,000 women were given financial literacy training.
Afterwards, the queen visited UNDP’s Access to Information Programme (a2i)’s union digital centre at the Union Parishad office of Narsingdi’s Zinardi Union and learnt of how it provides services to the people especially women through its digital centre.
The union digital centres have revolutionised financial inclusion in Bangladesh by bringing banking services to the people at the union level.
Queen Maxima arrived here on Tuesday evening to promote people’s access to financial services and see the financial inclusion progress in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is currently developing a national strategy to improve people’s access to financial services.
Queen Maxima, who was appointed UNSGSA in 2009, visited Bangladesh in her capacity as UNSGSA in November 2015.
In her capacity, she advises the UN Secretary-General and works worldwide to make safe and affordable financial services available to all, including low-income groups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
She has been an honorary patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) since 2011.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Queen Maxima expressed her country’s interest to help Bangladesh in digitisation of the retail payment system.
She expressed the interest while calling on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganobhaban. PM’s Press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the call.
He said Queen Maxima visited 15 industries, e-commerce and ipay in Bangladesh and appreciated the growth of the country in the digital platform.
She also appreciated the growth of mobile phone use in Bangladesh and the country’s huge success in women empowerment.
Maxima said she is committed to support Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is a highly-populated country that needs development. She said all development programmes focus on the improvement of the grassroots and the women.
She said the country has digitised systems in many areas and emphasised ensuring the protection of this system.
The Prime Minister said the government is encouraging a digitised system to which the country will gradually switch to.
In this connection, she mentioned that the government is providing stipend to 20.3 million students where some 10.3 million parents of primary school students are getting stipend through mobile phones.
The Prime Minister said the government has established 5,174 digital centres where women also receive various services.
Information and Communication Technology Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed mentioned that in recent times Bangladesh Bank introduced the electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) system.
Under this system, bank accounts can be opened without filling up any paper documents.
PM’s advisor Dr Gowher Rizvi, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain and Principal Secretary M Nojibur Rahman were present. – UNB