Queen Maxima of the Netherlands has called for quick formulation of a national strategy on financial inclusion in Bangladesh to help its unbanked population get financial services easily.
She also stressed the need for coordinated implementation of the Bangladesh National Financial Inclusion Strategy to help the economy grow and become more inclusive.
“It's extremely important to have coordination at the implementation stage. We have to work together to make people's lives easier and better,” she said.
The queen spoke to reporters at a press conference prior to her departure from Bangladesh, at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
She said, only around 30 percent people have access to formal financial services, and hoped that in the next phase, Bangladesh will take appropriate measures to bring all the unbanked people under the formal financial network.
SIM registration, strong regulation and issuing national ID cards with biometric verification will make things easier and safer to provide financial services, she said.
In her capacity as the UN secretary-general's special advocate for inclusive finance for development, Queen Maxima came to Bangladesh on November 16 on a three-day visit upon invitation of the Bangladesh government.
UN Resident Coordinator Robert D Watkins was also present at the briefing.
Queen Maxima made a courtesy call on President Abdul Hamid, met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman and other senior officials of the government, development partners, members of the civil society and the private sector.
Rahman, who also attended the press meet, said the central bank will be moving ahead to prepare the first draft of the national strategy by January in consultation with all stakeholders.
The stakeholders include the Prime Minister's Office, the finance ministry and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
On the queen's meeting with the president, prime minister, finance minister and others, Rahman said, “Everywhere there was a serious commitment about digital financial inclusion.”
Maxima said governance is an important issue, not only for the public sector, but also for the private sector.
“Through financial inclusion, you will have a more transparent system. I would say financial inclusion makes corruption more difficult.”
She also suggested the introduction of Bangla language in all cellphone operating systems, so that it makes things easier for people, and focusing more on providing financial services to women.
Digital financial inclusion will play a key role in reducing the cost of all types of financial services, she said.
Queen Maxima said mobile phone is one of the most promising tools to promote financial inclusion in Bangladesh.
She lauded Bangladesh's progress in financial inclusion and said the efforts need to be continued, as a lack of financial access indicates that there is no secure way for families to save money for school fees, health emergencies and other things.
“Financial inclusion is not only pro-growth but also pro-poor.”
The BB governor said the cost of sending remittance is dropping significantly due to steps taken by the government.
Rahman said the transaction fee through bKash, a mobile financial service provider, will also come down once the national strategy is formulated and implemented.