Governor Bakani’s Tribute for Late Dr Jakob Weiss
GOVERNOR BAKANI’s TRIBUTE FOR LATE DR JAKOB WEISS
Late Dr. Jakob Weiss has been part of the Bank of PNG and the country for so long. Some words to describe Dr Weiss that come to mind are economist, educator, mentor, consultant, advisor, and diplomat – for he was one and all of those during his long, distinguished and varied career with the Bank of PNG and PNG. Perhaps, in recalling his association with BPNG, we would get a better description of him and at the same time pay a fitting tribute to him.
It all began some 30 years ago when the first Governor of the Bank of PNG, Sir Henry ToRobert, saw the need to build up staff capacity at the Central Bank. During the annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington, DC, he made a request for assistance from the IMF. The IMF identified and seconded Dr. Jakob Weiss, a central banking specialist from the Bank of Israel to head the Economics department at the Bank of PNG. Dr. Weiss was then the Head of the Research department at the Bank of Israel. He had a well-rounded central banking resume, having been educated in Israel and the US. Apart from having taught at universities in Israel, UK and USA, he had worked at the Board of the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Israel.
Dr. Weiss first term of engagement at Bank of PNG was from 1988 to 1994. He came with his wife and youngest daughter and took up residence at the Pacific View apartments, at 2-mile hill. This was remarkable when many consultants were reluctant to bring their families to live in PNG given their perceived view on the law and order situation at that time. In fact, in later years, the IMF resident representatives would come with a bullet-proof armored vehicle and stationed their families in Australia. But that was not for Dr. Weiss. He made the effort to get to know the country and its people. And from that, began a long and distinguished career and relationship with the Bank of PNG and PNG. He quickly grew fond of the country because his flat was soon adorned with traditional Sepik face masks, feathered head-dresses and other artifacts.
Dr Weiss was a mentor, a friend and wonderful person to the staff of Bank of Papua New Guinea. He believed in an intellectual, moral, confident and efficient central bank that is destined to provide sound leadership to shape
the path of economic prosperity for Papua New Guinea. He instilled strong work ethics for staff, build up their technical skills and knowledge, introduced a new thing called ‘desk-top computers’ to staff, and encouraged training, both in-house and externally. He also created a conducive working environment. He fondly talked off ridding the department of drunkards, mischiefs and the likes, even when warned by others if he knew that the locals may do ‘puri puri’ on him! And he did do that for one or two staff, transferring them to other Departments where they best fit in. But he also helped changed one or two others who seriously lacked work commitment and were always out partying on weekends but whom he thought were promising young men who could change, become disciplined and contribute meaningfully to the work of the Bank under his constantly serious and watchful eyes. His strong and consistent style of discipline and persistence in seeing changes in young Papua New Guineans resulted in one of the ‘drunkards’ changing his life style altogether and became a well groomed and disciplined officer who now holds one of the Assistant Governor positions. Moreover, late Dr Weiss and his wife Carmella attended this officer’s wedding back in 1993 and their presence made his day.
As with anyone bringing in new changes, he had opposition. When other consultants at the central bank presented obstacles, he gave Sir Henry the ultimatum – ‘you brought me here to assist develop the Bank, so either they go or I go’. To his credit and one that worked out well for BPNG and PNG, Governor ToRobert stood by Dr. Weiss. And as they say, the rest is history.
With a free hand, Dr. Weiss set about building up the Economics department. One of the many great values of Dr Weiss was foresight, the greatness to see ahead what we the staff struggle to perceive holistically. Sometimes patiently, many times angrily, but always, he calmly helps us to navigate out path to our eventual destinations. His guidance on the foreign exchange market, management of the foreign exchange reserves are some of his work that are priceless. He also set up the banking supervision function of BPNG, bringing in an IMF TA to assist. In later years, he established the research unit of the central bank, which eventually became the Research department.
He got in touch with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) of London for bright young post-graduate students with masters’ qualifications from UK universities to work at BPNG under a 2-year fellowship. BPNG’s and PNG’s first ODI fellow started with Martin Ashworth in 1989. Dr. Weiss approached the University of PNG’s School of Economics to send him the top students in their final year as well as those doing the honors program.
He saw the Bank as a learning institute. He sent staff off to take courses on computing skills, report writing and financial analysis. He brought in lecturers from the IMF Training Institute in Washington, DC for an in-country financial programming & policy course at the then Travelodge hotel and experts from Bank of Finland and others for a financial analysis course at the then Bankers College. In 1991, he initiated arrangements with the Reserve Bank of Australia for an RBA scholarship at Australian universities for post-graduate studies of BPNG staff. The first recipient of the scheme went in 1992.
Dr Weiss instituted significant, memorable and effective changes in the central bank by addressing perceived weaknesses in staff capacity, policy & procedure and confronted them with confidence to bring about changes. He modernized work processes and empowered national staff by introducing changes to how things were done – he replaced qualitative, anecdotal work with quantitative analysis in areas like the bank’s business liaison survey, used reserve money framework for monetary policy formulation, compiled GDP estimates and forecasts with NSO staff, and introduced systematic and high quality editorial standards for publications such as annual reports and QEBs. In the process, he proved his critics and predecessors wrong in showing that Papua New Guineans were indeed capable of doing things on their own given the right guidance. He achieved the changes he wanted, along the way facing many challenges during the trying economic cycles faced by the country.
He built up important contacts within key Government agencies such as Treasury, Finance, Planning, IRC and NSO, with the banks and other financial institutions as well as with the commodity boards and private sector organizations. He also established contacts with international institutions and organizations that BPNG could draw on. At the end of the year, his secretary would hang up the Christmas cards he received – the stack rivalled those received by the Governor.
Dr. Weiss was not someone who sat behind a desk. He went out with staff on the business survey trips, took along staff to meetings, asked them to take the minutes and got actively involved in technical work, doing the number-crunching work as well as the policy discussions. He had a hands-on approach to everything and ‘walked the talk’, as they say. In 1989, he just flew out of Arawa after conducting the BLS in Bougainville when the first electricity pylons were blown up, signaling the start of the Bougainville crisis (civil unrest).
Dr. Weiss had a photogenic memory. He recalled comments and statistics down to the minute details. On most occasions, staff struggled to recollect facts and figures and would only nod their heads in agreement (or disbelief!) with the details he seemed to recall with ease. His solid academic grounding and long experience working for the Board of the US Federal Reserve and Bank of Israel meant he was able to blend both the theoretical and practical aspects of issues he was dealing with, especially on financial matters. He was also stern in his approach to work and in getting his point of view across. You know when he starts to say, ‘young man’, that you had to back off from a confrontation or face his glare and wrath! He still calls some of us ‘young man’ even when some of us we have grey hair after all these years in the Bank. We would often refer to him as the Old Man- out of sheer respect for his age, caliber and friendship.
Over the years, Dr. Weiss participated in some of the most momentous periods of PNG’s economic history. He was involved with the floating of the kina exchange rate and designing the mechanism for a free-floating regime (1994), cleaning-up (revitalization) of the savings and loan societies movement, negotiation of IMF assistance through Stand-by arrangements (1990 and 2000), clean-up of PNGBC and its eventual sale to BSP (2001), reforms to the financial sector with revamping of key legislations including the Central Banking Act 2000 and the Banks and Financial Institutions Act 2000 that granted increased autonomy to BPNG (2000), the Microfinance and Employment project, between PNG Gov’t and ADB, with the Wau Micro-bank (2001-02), and liberalization of foreign exchange control on current account transactions (2005).
At the Bank of PNG, his work included development of the domestic securities trading system, the European Investment Bank’s Global Loan Facility for small and medium sized nationally owned businesses (1991), two editions of the ‘Money and Banking in Papua New Guinea’ books (1998 and 2007), editorial review of BPNG’s research working paper series (2006), new monetary policy tools and reporting format – kina auction facility (from 1994), review BPNG’s strategic plan (2012 to 2015) and BPNG Staff Housing scheme.
Dr. Weiss was a tough negotiator with the ability to present facts and figures and convince others. His skills came to the fore during the negotiations for the IMF stand-by program for PNG in the 1990 and 2000, which was done with the World Bank structural adjustment program and donor assistance. Prior to that, he negotiated a foreign currency swap with the Australian Government. In later years, he negotiated the investment management agreement for the outsourcing of BPNG FX reserves to external fund managers, finalized the Credit Suisse syndicated commercial loan and worked on a debut sovereign bond issue for PNG. He was meticulous in financial matters. As many of the external fund managers found out during the six-monthly review where they had to explain and defend their performance against peers and the benchmark. Many dreaded facing Dr. Weiss’ scrutiny and would ask in advance if Dr. Weiss was in the BPNG review team.
When Dr. Weiss was re-engaged by the Bank of PNG as a consultant, he undertook brain-storming sessions with staff. A topical issue was selected and Dr. Weiss would facilitate the sessions, covering matters ranging from liberalization of exchange control to super-regulator of the financial system to monetary policy management. With management, the sessions covered leadership, management structure and roles of the central bank. Loosely based on the Chatham House Rules, everyone in the room had to voice their views, opinions or observations during the sessions. You do not have to have prior knowledge of the topic, which meant many staff dreaded the sessions and sweated a lot when their turn came around to speak! But that was Dr. Weiss’ way – no matter how junior a staff was, he always listened to their views. Those views were not ignored. For instance, when discussing the management structure of the Bank, the concept of assistant governors used by other central banks was brought up. He took that on and made it happened. We now have 4 assistant governors in the Bank of PNG.
He had over the years groomed the careers of many in central banking, many of whom now hold senior positions. He had faith in a lot of the young officers and took them on as young novices. He became not only a mentor but a father-figure to them. He also had passion for life and took a keen interest in the affairs of those around him. He contributed towards the Bank’s Staff Housing Scheme Policy, and encouraged many staff to build or buy their own homes under the staff housing scheme so they can have an asset for life after leaving the Bank.
Though tough, he had a softer and compassionate side. When the first national Deputy Governor, Nick Bokas, died in 1990, he made sure everyone in the department was at the airport to meet the casket upon arrival from Australia and to attend the funeral service at St. Mary’s cathedral. He showed similar emotion with the passing of young officers – as was the case with late Hera Hetahu.
Dr. Weiss also spent time at the Treasury department, working on the national budget and assisting with fiscal policy natters. Some from his days at Treasury still refer to him as the ‘tank commander’. This was referring to his military service when he served in the armored corps division of the Israeli Defense Forces during the six-day of 1967, serving at both the Golan Heights against the Syrians and at the Sinai Peninsula against Egyptian forces.
His long-lasting relationship for PNG was, as he often said, ‘because of his love for the people and the country’. It is perhaps not surprising that in 2007, he was appointed PNG’s honorary consul in Israel, a job he cherished as he worked on expanding the PNG-Israel relationship. ‘I sign my own visa to come to PNG’, he fondly says.
He was also courteous and reliable. You would know that he would always acknowledge your email with an indication of when he will reply. Something we have yet to master – that emails get acknowledged, phone calls are
returned and mails responded to.
His longevity of life could be due to his busy-ness. His work ethnic was phenomenal. His clear analytical and critical thinking, attention to detail, and intellectual capabilities did not wane with the passing of time. Even when many his age would have retired, Dr. Weiss kept on working and helping others. In fact, as he got older, he got more engaged with his work and only on his doctor’s orders did he cut back on his travels. ‘Hard-work does not kill you’, he would often say. That, perhaps is the secret to his long life.
The current high standing, integrity and solid reputation of BPNG is due in no small part to the efforts, dedication and commitment of late Dr. Weiss. This is also seen in the large number of staff he mentored and groomed who now hold senior positions in BPNG and elsewhere. Where the BPNG is now at is truly a testimony and legacy of late Dr. Weiss.
Now that Dr. Weiss is gone, I think of the unfinished business at the Bank of PNG – remaining work on the operations of the foreign exchange market, the monetary transmission process, the debut sovereign bond issue for PNG and others. We may think of these as unfinished business for Dr. Weiss. But really, these are unfinished businesses for us – those he mentored and groomed over these past many years are now ready for just this moment.
It is our task now to complete the work of Dr. Weiss and build on from where he left off. Just like he said at his going away farewell party at the 5th floor, Bank of PNG, ‘it is now time for all of you to spread your wings and fly’. Yes, it is time for us to go out on our own, spread our wings and soar. Dr. Weiss has given the training and done his job, what we do from here on is ours to decide. The baton has been passed on.
We will lovingly remember the countless achievements of Dr Weiss. He leaves behind a legacy; he gave us, staff of Bank of Papua New Guinea the opportunity to create, develop and excel ourselves in what we do as the central bank and for Papua New Guinea. He helped us to believe and hope inside ourselves.
The Bank of Papua New Guinea will carry the seeds of greatness in its roles and functions; thanks to a man who thought we could.
Farewell Dr. Weiss and rest in peace.
Keynote address by Loi. M Bakani, CMG, the Governor of Bank of Papua New Guinea at the Improving Digital Financial Literacy Workshop~An APEC Capacity-Building Initiative for Papua New Guinea
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY LOI. M. BAKANI, CMG, THE GOVERNOR OF BANK OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA AT THE Improving Digital Financial Literacy WORKSHOP~An APEC Capacity-building Initiative for Papua New Guinea
20-21 June 2018 the Stanley Hotel, Port Moresby
- Caitlin Wilson, Deputy High Commissioner, Australian High Commission
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Officials;
- Other VIPs;
- Invited International Speakers and Facilitators;
- Representatives of Financial Institutions; and,
- Representatives of relevant Papua New Guinea Government Agencies,
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me begin by thanking the Australian Government for partnering with us to organising this very vital workshop that reflects one of our Key Priority areas on our National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2016-2020 and that is Digital Financial Services and supports current priorities in the Finance Ministers’ Process, and the Cebu Action Plan.
Digital financial inclusion (DFI) is defined as digital access to and use of formal financial services by excluded and underserved population; this phenomenon has emerged as a new wave in the hope that it will reach the last mile consumer in the most convenient and affordable manner. Given low levels of adult financial literacy in Papua New Guinea, particularly amongst women, there is a need to strengthen consumer digital financial literacy and awareness in the country. With the high illiteracy rates and low technology innovation and penetration, financial literacy and consumer awareness must be improved to drive usage of digital financial services and products.
Globally, financial sector policymakers recognize the “game-changing” potential of digital financial inclusion. Institutions and financial regulators have the opportunity – and indeed the responsibility – to prepare consumers for both the risks and the rewards of the digitization of financial services.
The existing “bricks and mortar” banking system does not work for poor people. This is partly because most of their transactions are conducted in cash. Handling cash transactions is costly for banks, utility companies and other institutions, which pass along the costs to their customers. This takes the services beyond the financial reach of consumers.
I see this capacity building workshop as critical for government officials and policy makers in this room in understanding and mitigating risks as key to achieving the game changing potential rewards of digital financial inclusion.
Towards digital financial inclusion
The global revolution in mobile communications, along with rapid advances in digital payment systems, is creating opportunities to connect poor households to affordable and reliable financial tools through mobile phones, and other digital interfaces.
Digital financial services should be suited to customers’ needs, and delivered responsibly, at a cost both affordable to customers and sustainable for providers. The three key components of any such digital financial services are: a digital transactional platform, retail agents, and the use by customers and agents of a device – most commonly a mobile phone – to transact via the platform.
What is happening?
New digital transactional offer convenient and vastly less expensive ways to make payments and transfer funds, more often, providing a safe place for our people to store value especially for those that rely on the proverbial mattress. These platforms accommodate the very small and unpredictable cash flows of the poor, allowing them to transact affordably in tiny amounts whenever they wish, subject to the vagaries of sometimes unpredictable or unreliable connections and other risks.
With the implementation of PNG’s 2nd National Financial Inclusion Strategy, our first quarter (March 2018) statistics show that there has been an increase of 55% of users with mobile financial services accounts and a 62.75% increase of women with mobile financial service accounts.
Digital transactional platforms yield further benefits for financial inclusion by providing both a means to access additional financial services, such as interest-bearing savings, credit, insurance and even investment products. They also generate data that financial providers and regulators can use to design financial products tailored to the repayment capacity and financial needs of the specific poor and low-income customer segments.
Digital financial literacy
In a digital world, safety and security are the top priorities for everyone. Remaining safe is an individual’s own responsibility which has to be taken seriously. Payment providers can put in the most fool proof systems in the world but the human element of payments, and hence actions resulting in fraud, cannot be emphasised enough. Whether it is reducing risk, improving uptake and usage, enhancing consumer protection or avoiding over-indebtedness, digital financial literacy is a cross-cutting and unifying theme of three paradigms: digital, finances and literacy.
Simply, Digital financial literacy is having the knowledge, acquired skills and necessary habits to effectively use digital devices for financial transactions. This intersects with an individual’s basic literacy levels and their ability to use digital devices/technology.
Low literacy and distrust: Although digital technology is opening new vistas, challenges persist. Sparse populations, inconsistent network coverage, insufficient capital for building new business models, lack of trust and low technical literacy of consumers can stand in the way of success, particularly in connecting remote or underserved communities.
For us here in PNG, an early and quick transition may not seem plausible because of the magnitude of the geographical and cultural divide. People’s aversion to digital finance has more to do with their aversion to everything that has to do with technology. And this stems from their lack of trust in it. It is also partly on account of lack of comfort with technology and literacy needed to fully use these services. Women often face additional barriers: less access to mobile phone, lower literacy levels, less confidence in using technology and restrictions on travel or social interaction.
The spike in cyber-attacks: The push for digitisation has escalated risks relating to cybercrime. Cyber-attacks are the third most likely global risk for 2018, behind extreme weather conditions and natural disasters, that’s according to findings from the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2018.
PNG has earlier this year launched the National Computer Emergency Response team (CERT), formed to assess internet security risks and to provide assistance to online systems that become victims of hacker attacks. A team of experts from the Government, banks, internet service providers and the University of Technology has been set up to protect businesses and the general public from cybercrime. CERT is also working on creating a policy framework to regulate cyber security in Papua New Guinea.
Impact of financial education programmes: It has been found that financial education programmes that focus only on imparting knowledge rarely deliver impact unless they are backed by a suitable product and its usage support. A recent UNDP survey on financial literacy programmes in India revealed that in areas where a service provider was involved in the programmes, the participants had a better understanding of products and used them regularly.
Some banks use a decision tree to help customers open saving accounts that match their needs. Going through the decision tree in itself leads to an understanding of improved product features. Similarly, in one model, a bank undertook a project to deliver financial education training to young women in rural communities through a cascade training model where core trainers trained peer educators, who in turn trained community members. These examples show that there is a need to approach financial education using a model that involves experiential learning and use of products, rather than theoretical approaches.
To use financial services to their full potential, to protect their families and improve their lives, the low-income people need products well suited to their needs. They also need appropriate training and education for adapting to these financial services. All this requires attention to human and institutional issues such as quality of access, affordability of products, familiarity and comfort in use, sustainability for the provider of these services, and outreach to the most excluded populations.
What is on the horizon for policy makers?
Digital financial inclusion introduces new market participants and allocates roles and risks (both new and well-known) in different ways compared to traditional approaches to retail financial service delivery. The new parties and arrangements involved in the digital transactional platform, and specifically in the management and storage of account data and the holding of customer funds; the technology used by the device and the digital transactional platform; and the use of agents as the principal customer interface triggers, as well as the typical profile of the financially excluded or underserved customers in question, introduce operational risks, consumer-related risks, and financial crime risks, among others. Understanding and mitigating these risks will be key to achieving the game-changing potential rewards of digital financial inclusion in PNG.
In the next two days, you will gain a stronger understanding of the characteristics, advantages and risks of digital financial services and a stronger knowledge of the activities and channels that can be used to improve consumers’ digital financial literacy drawing from case studies and best practices from other APEC economies.
I look forward to your strategies and action plan to improve digital financial literacy in Papua New Guinea and I wish you well in the next two days of workshop.
Speech by Mr. Loi M Bakani, CMG Governor and Registrar of Savings and Loan Societies at the Annual General Meeting of Central Bank Officers Savings & Loan Society Ltd 14 June 2018.
Presentation by Loi M Bakani CMG Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea to the National Planning Consultative Summit
Blockchain Technology and Financial Inclusion Seminar – Closing Speech by Minister for Communication & Information, Hon. Minister Francis Maneke, MP Talasea.
- Mr Loi Bakani, Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Mr. Rod Hilton, Minister Counsellor, Australian High Commission
- Mr. Paulias Korni, Secretary, Department of Communication & Information
- Dr. Gae Kauzi, Deputy Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Mrs. Elizabeth Genia, Assistant Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Members of the Diplomatic Corp
- Esteemed Speakers
- Distinguished Guests
- Members of the Media
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
I am honored to join you all, in my capacity as Minister for Communication & Information, in closing this inaugural conference on Blockchain Technology and Financial Inclusion.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our nation’s development roadmap – Vision 2050 – commits us to becoming a smart country, and to aspire to improving our human development indicators.
I believe that blockchain technology offers us the potential to do both of these things, while accelerating our economic development, and helping other nations do the same.
When we talk about being a smart nation, we’re talking about innovation, and problem solving.
Coming from a remote agricultural province, I know firsthand the challenges faced by our rural majority.
- Many people don’t have identification documents, making it difficult to open bank accounts and participate in civic life.
- Financial services are difficult to access beyond our provincial capitals, making it hard to get credit and send money over long distances.
- And customary land is usually unregistered, making it difficult to develop for commercial purposes.
As you all know, these are just three of the challenges which the blockchain can be applied to.
This makes Papua New Guinea an ideal proving ground for these applications.
In fact, there is a possibility that we will leapfrog many developed nations in our use of this sort of smart technology, giving us a competitive edge as early adopters.
Papua New Guineans are very open to new ideas, and new technologies. Just look at how quickly mobile phones have spread, and become a part of everyone’s lives.
We are also natural traders, with our ancestors exchanging items of value – food, tools, betel nut – for hundreds of year.
Indeed, bitcoin is not such a difficult concept for people who used kina shells as currency. Even today, people in East New Britain respect shell money as a store of value and a means of trade.
I’d like to pay tribute to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, and Governor Bakanai, for being at the forefront of this nation’s adoption of blockchain technology, particularly in relation to financial inclusion.
Participants have heard during this conference about the bank’s R&D agenda which resulted in the successful pilot of a new blockchain-based identity solution.
The IDbox, developed with the support of the Australian Government, is an exciting innovation that uploads a person’s identity to the blockchain without mains electricity or internet connectivity.
In the future, the box could be used to enable inexpensive funds transfers outside the banking system.
So someone in a remote district could go to the store and buy rice, soap and other goods with funds sent – at virtually no cost – from a family member in Port Moresby.
It is these sorts of really transformative innovations that can change people’s lives – particularly in a nation like ours, in which 85 per cent the population is outside the banking system.
I’d also like to congratulate Governor Bakani on his launch of the PNG Digital Commerce & Cryptocurrency Association, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders to identify emerging opportunities, and advise government on regulatory issues.
As the Prime Minister reiterated just yesterday, our government is committed to strengthening the national identity system, and will be sending an envoy to India to look at using biometric data.
When we look at securing this sort of information, we must consider the advantages that blockchain technology has to offer.
Likewise, the government has committed in the Second Alotau Accord to continuing the digitisation of land assets and voluntary registration of customary land.
The blockchain offers a robust and secure technology to ensure the accuracy of land information, and the validity of transactions.
Another potential application is in the area of so-called “smart contracts”, which can enable the tracking of funds – like services improvement program funds – in a more transparent manner, without leakage along the way.
In my own ministry, I am determined to support new “e-government” solutions that will deliver greater efficiency in the way public funds are spent.
This is something that we will be looking at in our APEC discussions next year, with a view to aligning our own systems and policies with those of our regional partners.
The upgrading of our broadband infrastructure will, over time, improve the enabling environment for these sorts of reforms.
These are exciting times for Papua New Guinea, and for blockchain innovators.
I’d like to thank all of the participants in this conference for applying their skills and creative vision to addressing the development challenges of this nation, in partnership with our core institutions like the Bank of Papua New Guinea.
I’d also like to thank our friends from the Australian Government, who are working in partnership with our own Government agencies, like the Central Bank, to strengthen economic development.
We in the O’Neill Government are determined to bridge the digital divide, to ensure our people can participate in the global economy, not be excluded from it.
Speech by Mr. Norbert Mumba – Deputy Executive Director, AFI at the 3rd Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable.
Speech by Mr. Norbert Mumba – Deputy Executive Director, AFI
at the 3rd Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable. Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, 2017
Honorable Senior statesman and former Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Rabbie Namaliu
Mr. Denton Rarawa, Governor, Central Bank of Solomon Islands and PIRI Chair
Mr. Simeon Athy, Governor, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu and PIRI Co-Chair
Mr. Loi Bakani, Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea and Host of the 3rd PIRI Leaders Roundtable
Governors of the Pacific Islands Regional Initiatives
Deputy Governors of the Pacific Islands Regional Initiatives
Partners, international experts and stakeholders
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the very warm welcome and reception. It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you all in this beautiful city of Kokopo in the East New Britain Province of PNG. Permit me to briefly express my gratitude to Governor Bakani and his excellent staff at the Bank of Papua New Guinea. We appreciate all your efforts in hosting and organizing this important regional initiative meeting for the Pacific and the AFI network. Organizing such events is not an easy task and I congratulate you all on a job well done.
I would like to make special mention of our member who have travelled all the way from Seychelles to attend this meeting – Deputy Governor Jenifer Sullivan and team from Central Bank of Seychelles, welcome. As a small island, we hope that the lessons you will learn from this gathering will contribute to the knowledge of policy innovation that the CBS cab utilize to champion the cause of financial inclusion.
The Executive Director of AFI, Dr. Alfred Hannig, who cannot be here with us today, due to other pressing issues of the AFI network, has charged me to express his kindest regards to all of you who are taking part in this PIRI Leaders’ Roundtable.
The Pacific Islands is one of the most committed region to achieve greater financial inclusion in the world. Policy priorities in the region have been catered to facilitate the access of the lowest-income populations to financial services with the aim of creating conditions that really empower these groups to reach greater financial inclusion. Since its launch in 2015 in Dili, Timor Leste, the regional initiative has unlocked a resilient and long-term prospect for member institutions to share a common vision, while safeguarding the furtherance of efforts to scale up financial inclusion in the Pacific Islands. I am happy to note that the initiative through the seven member institutions have continued to implement innovative policy solutions that address the issues highlighted in the Dili Consensus on financial inclusion in the Pacific.
2016 was an exciting year for members of PIRI and I am happy to share some of the notable achievements of PIRI members including 2017:
• The hosting of AFI’s flagship event, the Global Policy Forum in Nadi, Fiji with adoption of the Denarau Action Plan.
• The recognition of the region’s achievements has grown within the AFI network, and as you may be aware, the Pacific is the only region to have won the prestigious Maya Declaration Awards twice, with awards going to the Reserve Bank of Fiji in 2013 and the National Reserve Bank of Tonga in 2016, congratulations.
• The completion of Demand Side Surveys (DSS) for Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu including the completion and publication of the survey findings on SMEs for Vanuatu in 2017. The data from the DSS surveys are important particularly in designing policy solutions for financial inclusion that are evidence-base.
• Development of National Financial Inclusion Strategies (NFIS) for Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and with expected strategies from Tonga and Vanuatu.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The theme for the 3rd PIRI Leaders Roundtable is “Digital Financial Services in the face of De-risking”, with discussions being held under the overarching theme of Digital Financial Services and technology. This theme is timely for the entire region as the issue on de-risking has had serious repercussions in the lives of Pacific islanders. However, there is opportunity for new business models in the pacific.
Remittance services using traditional transfer agents is the key service affected by de-risking in the Pacific. Regional regulators should encourage the private sector for new “business models” for providing remittance services without the use of a transfer agent. It may be that the age of the traditional Western Union money transfer agent is now coming to an end. We need to look at how other technology solutions can be used to facilitate remittance services to the islands, and pacific regulators need to be open minded in providing the enabling regulatory environment to support these new innovations. I see great opportunity for this.
In its 2015 report, GSMA noted that the mobile ecosystem in the Pacific Islands was directly responsible for driving major economic progress and welfare. The reported highlighted that in 2014, mobile technology was responsible for 4.7% of the region’s GDP, representing nearly US$2 billion in value added terms. The mobile ecosystem directly accounted for more than a third of that value, with indirect and productivity impacts accounting for the rest. Mobile services are increasingly seen as a driver of socio-economic development in the region, particularly in the areas of financial inclusion, disaster preparedness and response, and bridging the gender gap.
Over the next two days, we will explore a range of topics, including:
• Digital Financial Services (DFS) in the Pacific and deepening the discussion around the barriers and enablers;
• De-risking in the Pacific – is there a regional solution? If so, what can PIRI do and the experience that we can share with the AFI network;
• Green Finance and Financial Inclusion;
• National Financial Inclusion Strategies and the challenges and lessons learnt from implementation;
• Women Empowerment in the Pacific with discussion around what the PIRI members are undertaking in implementing the Denarau Action Plan;
• Enhancing MSMEs access in the Pacific, the Role of Technology.
This leader’s roundtable will provide the platform for members and stakeholders the opportunity to share their experiences and learning from respective experiences in our work in building a more inclusive regional community as indeed we share a similar vision where financial services are accessible by all Pacific Islanders. I am confident that, at the end of this meeting, we will all walk away with new insights and ideas to set PIRI on a stronger path of deepening financial inclusion across the region and contributing to inclusive economic development in Pacific Island countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world in 2017 presents us with global challenges to the ideas of globalization and open exchanges: Waves of isolationism – Threat or opportunity? AFI will continue to be a champion for a global sharing community, and we will continue to show the value of this approach through our actions.
In that light, let me give you a few updates about the current work in the AFI network:
• We are working to strengthen the ties of the AFI network through new initiatives and offices. The regional office for Africa was formally launched at the AMPI regional event in Maputo announcing the bid going to the Ministry of Finance and Banque centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO. The bidding for the LAC office will close at the end of April 2017 and the process will be completed by August 2017.
• Regional Initiatives: We will be launching the Financial Inclusion in the Arab Region Initiative (FIARI) at the 2017 GPF in Egypt which will add to the other initiatives within the network (AMPI, PIRI and FILAC)
• We are expanding our PPD partnerships and trainings. In the last three working group meetings in Ghana, Seychelles and Tajikistan, including the AMPI event, VISA and mastercard provided trainings specific to member’s needs. I am also happy to note the presence of VISA in this meeting and I hope that they would be able to develop a training schedule for the Pacific based on the needs that will be provided by the experts group.
• We are expanding our important work on financial inclusion and gender, and following through on the priorities laid out in the Denarau Action Plan.
• We are seeing great progress with our Maya Declaration commitments. The Maya Declaration continues to be an inspiration across and beyond our network and I encourage you to build this into your work streams.
And as always, we are continuously looking at developing trends in financial inclusion and incorporating them within our policy work.
• Fintech: members endorsed proposal peer learning on Fintech/Regtech, now under preparation.
• Forcibly Displaced People workshop with the G20 on 26 April in Berlin – outcome report and we need members with experience to share their views
• Climate Change and Financial Inclusion (“Green Finance”)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to share with you my excitement about the upcoming 2017 AFI Global Policy Forum- the first to ever be held in the Arab region. Under the theme “Exploring Diversity, Promoting Inclusion” we are now working closely with Central Bank of Egypt to create a milestone event for financial inclusion. Official dates for the GPF are 13-15 September 2017 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, with the Regional Initiatives and Working Groups meeting set to take place the 11-12 September. We expect this to be the largest GPF- and largest event to ever be held by AFI- and most certainly, the working groups will play a key role in its success.
Before I close, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the efforts and contributions of our partners and friends. In particular, I wish to recognize the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) who funded and provided intellectual partnership for the realization of PIRI in its birth. We look forward to PFIP’s continued support to PIRI and its members.
85% of the worlds unbanked live in a country with an AFI institution.
This is our mandate and our obligation. The challenge before us is enormous. Indeed, it is a challenge beyond any one of us to conquer. But we are not alone. AFI’s strength is its members, its partners, and its supporters. Over 100 institutions, more than 90 countries working within an independent member-led institution.
And so, I return to our theme. “Digital Financial Services in the face of De-risking”. Let this be your guide as we spend the next day’s sharing financial inclusion lessons and knowledge here in Kokopo.
On that note, my deepest appreciation to Governor Loi Bakani and the team from BPNG for the excellent arrangements in hosting the 3rd Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) Leaders Roundtable here in the beautiful surroundings of Kokopo. I look forward to a fruitful and productive deliberations.
Thank you very much for your time and attention