The first stakeholder meeting presenting the approach for the Strategic Framework for Financial Inclusion in Thailand took place yesterday at the Thai Ministry of Finance. The Deputy Director General of the Fiscal Policy Office, Ms. Kannikar Ekpaopun, opened the meeting by welcoming the broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from Universities, national and international NGOs, sector ministries, international financial inclusion networks and grassroots organizations.
The development of a Strategic Framework for Financial Inclusion in Thailand will see the piloting of the UNCDF initiative MAP – Making Access to Finance Possible. Developed by UNCDF in partnerships with FinMark Trust and Cenfri, MAP offers a holistic approach to developing national action plans to extend financial inclusion based on robust evidence of the demand, supply and regulatory environment and a multi-stakeholder process of dialogue and decision making. FinScope surveys have already been conducted in 15 countries and is a robust demand side study that drives the MAP process using evidence-based analysis.
Recent developments have shown that the key drivers of financial inclusion have profoundly changed over the past few years. Innovations around mobile money, agent-banking or government-to-people transfers have revolutionized the prospects of accelerating financial inclusion for those presently excluded. These innovations however have often developed in a scattered manner, often without a clear analytical and programmatic framework or without adequate knowledge of the potential demand and usage for financial services by the poor. Moreover, there is an increased awareness of the need to promote access to financial services in a responsible way that ensures the respect of key principles around client protection.
MAP responds to these challenges by taking a broad view of financial inclusion through the ranges of products and services, institutions, delivery channels and actors while incorporating deep quantitative and qualitative diagnosis and analysis, and hence setting the stage for well-informed dialogue among stakeholders. Mr. Feisal Hussain, UNCDF Senior Regional Technical Advisor for Inclusive Finance, explained that "MAP addresses the growing need for discussion and dialogue between ministries and stakeholders to ensure the development of a straightforward and compelling national road map with key actions going forward.” Taking the G20 Principles and other international initiatives into action, this diagnostic tool catalyzes domestic efforts to make financial inclusion a reality. The country work will be leveraged to inform and contribute to global experience and dialogue. This will serve to benefit large numbers of low-income households and enterprises through significantly expanded access to financial services.
Thailand is the first country to pilot MAP and is a result of the partnership between FinMark Trust, Cenfri, the Asian Development Bank and UNCDF with support from the Embassy of Japan. According to Kelly Hattel, Financial Sector Specialist from the Asian Development Bank, “this process will put Thailand at the cutting edge of Financial Inclusion”.