Australian Secretary for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese launched a AUD$14.15 million (FJD$24 million) three-year partnership today with the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, aimed at increasing financial services for disadvantaged households across the Pacific.
PFIP, implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) aims to add one million Pacific Islanders to the formal financial sector by 2019, through facilitating access to appropriate financial services, creating national-level financial education initiatives and spearheading catalytic policy initiatives.
PFIP reached out to 600,000 Pacific Islanders in Phase 1.
"PFIP is helping lay the foundation for a prosperous Pacific region by enabling the poor to save, insure against risks and grow their own entrepreneurial activities," Mr Varghese said.
"The Australian Government recognizes that when low income and rural households have access to financial services, they are better able to grasp opportunities to contribute to and benefit from economic growth."
Mr Varghese commended PFIP's focus on financial education in schools and women's economic empowerment through financial inclusion.
"With 600,000 previously unbanked Pacific Islanders now enjoying access to financial services, it is pleasing to note that women make up close to half of this number," Mr Varghese said.
"Empowering women to participate in the economy is smart economics, and Australia has dedicated no less than half of its development assistance to benefiting women and girls."
Members of the diplomatic corps, development agencies and members of the Fiji National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT) attended the Australia-PFIP partnership launch in Suva today.
"We are honored and grateful for the continued generous support from the Australian Government," said Reuben Summerlin, PFIP Programme Manager.
"This funding will allow us to continue to assist our partners across the region to bring more people into the financial sector and raise financial competency in the region."
The Australian Government's partnership with PFIP commenced in 2009, and its latest contribution amounts to 50 per cent of multi-donor support. Other donors include New Zealand Aid Programme, the European Union, the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Capital Development Fund.