The Governor of the UAE Central Bank, Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, has underscored the UAE's efforts to advance financial inclusion and urged for aligning it with the country's efforts to implement the smart government initiative which requires providing all financial services in an electronic, safe and trustworthy way round the clock.
Al Suwaidi made his remarks in his keynote speech read out by Saif Hadef Al Shamsi, Assistant Governor of the UAE Central Bank for Monetary Policy and Financial Stability, at the opening of the '5th Arab Policy Forum on Financial Inclusion' taking place on the 10th and 11th December at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The Arab Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, and the German Development Agency, jointly organised the forum.
"In recent years, financial inclusion received attention on the international level, in particular when the G20 group adopted it as a main pillar of the economic and financial development agenda," said Al Suwaidi.
He noted that UAE Central Bank proposed financial inclusion as a key item on the agenda of the 11th GCC Banking Conference on the 'Role of the GCC Banking Sector in Supporting GCC Economies' which took place last month in Abu Dhabi.
Al Suwaidi further noted that among the most important indicators for financial inclusion in the UAE was the total number of current, saving and deposit accounts which went up to 7.3 million, or 86.5 percent of the country's population, by the end of 2012.
More than 80 high-level policymaker representing Central Banks, Ministries of Finance, and financial regulatory, supervisory, and standard-setting bodies from the Arab world are joining financial service providers and representatives from international organisations at the forum.
The two-day event will explore ways to increase access to financial services in Arab countries, discuss challenges to developing global practices in the region and strategies for improving access to finance and ensuring financial stability. Organisers say that this remains particularly important for a region that has the world's highest rates of unemployment at 25 per cent for youth alone and the lowest levels of access to financial services.
In addition, the vast majority of those aged 15 and above in the region, 82 per cent, do not have access to a formal account. Affording opportunities to many more people in the Arab world, say the forum's organisers, will take forward-looking policies that enable those currently outside the financial mainstream to gain access and, with it, the opportunity to improve their lives.
Among the key government interventions expected to be discussed are the establishment of consumer protection guidelines and specific regulations allowing mostly unregulated microfinance providers to transform into fully-fledged financial institutions serving low-income people. A more inclusive financial system would not only increase stability but also address concerns raised by the Arab Spring, including the need for a more equitable economic system, according to organisers.