Public access to financial services grow by 5%: SBP

KARACHI: The public access to financial services has significantly increased in Pakistan since 2008, with 16% of the adult population now having access to a bank account (including mobile wallets), improving from 11% in 2008.

Moreover, 23% of the adult population has access to formal financial services up from 12% in 2008. Women have advanced remarkably in terms of financial inclusion as now 11% of women are utilising banking services, compared to only 4% recorded in 2008.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra, while speaking at Pakistan Payment Summit, unveiled ‘Access to Finance (A2F) Survey 2015’ results and said that it is a part of the National Financial Inclusion vision as it will serve dual purpose of gauging the impact of our financial inclusion initiatives since 2008, and would provide the baseline data for the National Financial Inclusion strategy.

Traditionally, one of the key challenges to access finance has been the lack of demand, which is necessary for understanding the barriers to financial inclusion. Without such information, the market lacks the insights and capacity to develop client centric products and services. He hoped that the survey would help all the stakeholders in understanding knowledge, attitude and practices of a common Pakistani when it comes to managing financial matters.

SBP initiated the Access to Finance (A2F) Survey 2015 to check the state of financial access and usage in the country. This comprehensive country-level study of more than 10,500 respondents was geared to measure and analyse the current and foreseeable demand for financial services in Pakistan.

Tameer Microfinance Bank President and CEO Nadeem Hussain said that the customer base of branchless banking industry would become larger than those of the conventional banks in the next five years due to 3G/4G availability on smart phones, which is estimated to open up millions of mobile accounts by 2020.

“The technology-driven mobile banking would help generate about Rs 3.2 trillion worth of transactions into the banking system from outside the system. This will also help documenting the undocumented economy and a fund of Rs 100 million have been established for the two pilot projects for the projection of digitalised banking industry,” Hussain said, adding that the mobile banks are also working upon the project of attracting remittances into the country from Pakistanis living abroad.

“At present, a person living abroad faces five levels of intervention to send money home via conventional banking system. The mobile banks would do it in just one step and help attract larger remittances. Conventional payment system is going to be challenged and changed into digitalised payment system. The cheques, pay orders, and money orders would be changed into digital banking,” he said.

Sindh Revenue Board Chairman Tashfeen Khalid Niaz said that they have fully digitalised and automated the tax-paying system to facilitate taxpayers.

“Taxpayers can pay taxes via ATM, mobile phone and computer system now. The government amended the constitution in 2010 to empower the provinces to collect sales tax, and by using this, Sindh has become the largest sales tax collecting province with 24% of the total population of Pakistan,” he said.

There are 37.8 million banks accounts and 25 million debit cards; which have risen from 9.5 million in 2011.

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