On the occasion of the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium to Thailand, a Roundtable discussion about “Microfinance Development in Thailand”, took place at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) office in Bangkok yesterday. The discussion was attended by senior government officials, representatives of specialized financial institutions (SFIs), and experts from universities and the research community.
The discussions primarily focused around key issues of financial inclusion in Thailand, including issues of over indebtedness and client protection, which are being highlighted by the recently launched UNCDF Making Access Possible (MAP) tool.
MAP is a diagnostic and programmatic framework to support expanding access to financial services for individuals and micro and small businesses. The MAP framework creates the space to convene a wide range of stakeholders around evidence-based country diagnostic and dialogue and leads to the development of national financial inclusion roadmaps. The roadmap identifies key drivers of financial inclusion and includes specific actions that will contribute to greater financial inclusion. The framework has been developed by UNCDF in partnership with FinMark Trust and Cenfri and is intended to become a public good that can advance the global financial inclusion agenda.
MAP is designed to bring together a broad range of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, and is led by national authorities. As financial inclusion moves beyond traditional providers of financial services, this means bringing to the table other providers and players in new value chains (such as insurance companies, mobile network operators, technology companies, agricultural suppliers) as well as the regulators and policymakers implicated (such as ministries of telecommunications, agriculture, education, social welfare) and other civil society actors (such as consumer associations, financial education providers).
MAP can be a powerful catalyst for donor harmonization and coordination in supporting financial inclusion at the country level, consistent with the Paris Declaration, and for building on the lessons and recommendations from CGAP’s CLEAR exercises. It also offers a promising platform of cooperation for UN agencies to work together to promote financial inclusion (e.g., moving transfers linked to social or relief programs from cash disbursements to electronic platforms). MAP can complement other instruments, particularly the FSAP, by addressing financial exclusion at the bottom of the pyramid.
The topic of the fairly dominant role of the public sector and over-supply of debt was also discussed at some length during the workshop. HRH Princess Mathilde was particularly interested in why the private sector was not as active in Thailand at the base of the pyramid and how they may be encouraged.
As a very active representative during the International Year of Microcredit in 2005, Princess Mathilde was very familiar and engaged with issues of financial inclusion. In response to her high interest, UNCDF Senior Regional Technical Advisor for Inclusive Finance, Mr. Feisal Hussain, offered a wider analysis of issues in the region and UNCDF’s emerging approach to Microfinance. He specifically pointed out the opportunities that may be brought about by emergences of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) common market and its implications for driving faster financial inclusion in countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The roundtable provided an opportunity for participants to update one another on Thailand's plans for greater financial inclusion, ADB's involvement in developing a national strategy and implementation plan for Microfinance Institution in Thailand, and an opportunity to hear HRH Princess Mathilde's views on microfinance development based on her many field visits and discussions with participants regarding microfinance in other countries.