Queen Maxima’s three-day visit to Pakistan as the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate (UNSGSA) for Inclusive Finance for Development saw representatives from Pakistan’s finance sector meeting with the Dutch queen to discuss steps of financial inclusivity as a means of development in the country. Although Queen Maxima is visiting the country as a UN envoy, it is hoped that the foreign office and the government can use this opportunity to lay the groundwork for a state-to-state meeting, to improve ties with the Netherlands as well. Pakistan does have a positive relationship with the European Union, but concrete ties with individual states can help in improving the overall perception of the country in the western states.

The key takeaway from this visit – with representatives of the UN, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in tow – is that Pakistan has taken steps towards greater financial inclusivity, but more needs to be done. Experts across the world unanimously believe that the inclusion of all members of society into the formal banking sector greatly improves individual empowerment, alongside boosting the whole country as a whole. Pakistan has been making strides in this matter over the last decade or so – micro-finance has greatly helped providing banking and finance services to rural areas, but the inclusion of technology can lead to additional snowball effects.

Steps such as mobile companies allowing for money transfers through phone numbers has allowed for transactions to take place in nearly every part of the country, but it is time we take an additional step forward. Companies such as Telenor, Mobilink and others have laid the groundwork for banking channels in far-flung areas; now the formal banking sector must also increase its footprint beyond the major cities. Pakistan must aim for all of its adult population to use the banking system; that is the only way to improve documentation of the economy and encourage greater injection of wealth, even if it is through saving. It is hoped that Queen Maxima’s visit leads to some concrete steps in this direction.