Workshop on a National Strategy for Financial Literacy and Consumer Protection
H.E. Mr Somphao Phaysith, Governor, Bank of the Lao PDR, H.E. Michael Grau, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, distinguished guests and colleagues, and supporters of financial inclusion.
I am delighted to be able to join you this morning, as you lay the groundwork for a Lao national strategy for financial literacy and consumer protection.
The Australian Government is a strong exponent of the role of financial inclusion in reducing poverty. Access to appropriate and affordable financial services is a critical enabling factor for business development.
When savings and credit services are designed and delivered with a focus on poor people’s needs – particularly the needs of women – they can deliver substantive results in terms of investment in new income generating activities, and private sector growth.
I am happy to note two new Australian programs in the Lao PDR have, after 12 months, provided more than 108,000 rural people with greater access to financial services.
As me who have a history of making poor financial decisions, I also understand the importance of financial literacy. It’s an important part of Australia’s programs to improve access to finance.
We need to ensure men – and women – in poor communities understand the importance of savings, effective loan utilisation and repayment, as well as some of the potential pitfalls.
It’s a great way of empowering individuals – to identify the financial services that meet their needs – and encouraging entrepreneurship. It’s the key to the door of financial security and independence.
Around 50 economies worldwide are currently considering, designing or have implemented national strategies on financial education.
But the evidence shows this is a long-term journey that requires commitment and engagement from a range of groups, such as educators, bankers and finance officials.
Nor is there a standard model for the development of a national strategy.
It depends on each country’s unique needs and situation, including the maturity of the financial system and the regulatory framework.
In some countries, the main objective of a national strategy for financial education is to support financial inclusion.
In other countries, it is more about empowering consumers to make more informed choices.
There is much to cover today across a busy agenda.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning. I hope today will be a productive discussion, and another step forward for financial inclusion in the Lao PDR.
Thank you and good luck.