ISLAMABAD

Pakistan is leading way in South Asia in digital finance and branchless banking amid introduction of National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) - a roadmap to achieve financial inclusion goals.

Around 6 per cent of adults in the country have mobile accounts as compared to South Asia's average of less than 2.6 per cent.

Pakistan is also among the 25 countries, the World Bank Group and partners are prioritizing as part of efforts to reach Universal Financial Access by 2020.

Statistics have said it was supporting these country-led efforts which were reflected in Pakistan's Country Partnership Strategy (2015-19), with reforms and other actions to expand financial access and inclusion.

Having a formal and regulated transaction account opens access to other financial services, such as savings, payments, insurance and credit, all of which can help people better manage their lives and reduce poverty.

Last year Pakistan launched its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) with the goals to achieve universal financial access, with a target of expanding formal financial access to at least 50 per cent of adults, including women and youth, and to increase percentage of SME loans in bank lending to 15 per cent by 2020.

Pakistan's financial inclusion strategy is currently focusing on four areas including promoting digital transaction accounts and reaching scale through bulk payments, expanding and diversifying access points, improving capacity of financial service providers and increasing levels of financial awareness and capability.

Regarding Pakistan's Financial Access Statistics, the data said 13 per cent of Pakistani adults have a formal account, less than 5 per cent of women are included in formal financial sector, 27.5 million of Pakistani adults cite distance to a financial institution as a barrier to opening a financial account, 2.9 per cent of adults in Pakistan have a debit card.

At the same time, Pakistan is leading the way in South Asia in digital finance and branchless banking.

The World Bank Group has proposed Pakistan following action items to enhance financial access in the country:

These are to shift all government-to-person payments from cash to digital payments, following the success of the Benazir Income Support Program in opening up access to financial services.

Create incentives for private sector to use electronic payments instead of cash when paying for private sector invoices and salaries.

Build on success of Easypaisa. Twenty million customers conduct nearly 650,000 through Easypaisa, which is accepted over 75,000 shops in more than 800 cities across the country.

Establish a consistent regulatory and oversight framework for all payment and settlement systems, for banks and non-banks.

Develop legal frameworks for secured transactions, factoring and credit reporting systems, and an electronic movable collateral registry.

Establish an enabling regulatory and supervisory framework for the non-bank financial sector, including Islamic financial service providers, supported by adequate financial consumer protection.

Expand access points to banks through agent networks or partnerships with microfinance institutions or postal networks.

Improve financial education and literacy outreach, particularly among people who have little experience with formal financial sector and digital payments.