By Lee C. Chipongian
The Philippines is among the top five countries in the world in pursuing financial inclusion programs and agenda, and the No. 1 in Asia with India, results from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Global Microscope 2019 said.
In a statement, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) which leads all financial inclusion initiatives in the country, said the objective will always be to ensure every Filipino will have access to financial services.
“We at the BSP are delighted by this recognition from the Global Microscope on its annual study which includes 55 counties worldwide. The Philippines’ top standing in Asia reflects the BSP’s thrust of promoting the adoption of financial services through compelling use cases for digital payments,” the BSP said.
The statement added that continued recognition “provides an impetus to further deepen the foundations of financial inclusion through digital means in 2020, with the overall goal of providing transactions that are relevant and valuable to many Filipinos.”
BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said last month that 30 percent of the payments transactions in the Philippines are now digital, more than the 20 percent original target for a cash-less payments by 2020.
Diokno told reporters that the new goal next year is 30 percent. By the end of his term in 2023, he is projecting 100 percent coverage of digital payments.
Based on the EIU report, the Philippines excelled in five standard categories, namely: Government stability and support; stability and integrity; products and outlets; consumer protection; and infrastructure.
In 2019, the list showed that the the country retained its top standing in credit portfolios for middle- and low-income customers, market entry, and ongoing requirements for banks.
“Focusing on the enabling environment and expansion of digital financial services (DFS), the Global Microscope 2019 recognized the country’s recent efforts in promoting digital financial inclusion and financial literacy,” the report said.
The report cited the continued implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) under the guidance of the inter-agency Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC). It highlighted recent initiatives, among them the launch of the national digital ID system, one-stop shop program for online government services, and creation of the BSP of the Financial Technology Sub-Sector (FTSS), a supporting unit oriented towards digital financial technology for the underserved, according to the statement.
Areas that need more work are also included in the report but are recognized as already being addressed, such as cyber-security, connectivity, and frameworks for emerging services.
“(The) interoperability in retail payments remains hindered by limited industry participation and transaction costs,” the report noted. Also, it said that the supervision of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and non-banks, and dispute resolution mechanisms for government payments likewise require enhancement are also work in progress.
The Global Microscope has reviewed and assessed 55 countries.