Amidst the flurry of activity at the joint World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, one initiative was announced that probably won't grab as much attention as the IMF's most recent World Economic Outlook or Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn's agile dodging of a flying shoe. But for the world's poor, the IMF's launch of a new Access to Finance project will probably be much more important. From the press release:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today launched the “Access to Finance Project,” which is aimed at collecting annual geographic and demographic data on access to basic consumer financial services worldwide. The aim of the project is development of high-quality, cross-country data for policy makers and researchers...
...Specifically, data will be collected on the geographical and demographical outreach of financial services. The outreach of financial services is proxied by bank branch network, availability of automated teller machines, and by four key financial instruments: deposits, loans, debt securities issued, and insurance.
The press release reports that the first tranche of data is due out in the first half of 2010. Coupled with the recently launched Financial Infrastructure project, the data should help us take a step further in resolving heated debates about the impact of microlending, microsaving, and the various other types of financial services targeted at the poor.
For more background, check out the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors, which proposed the new initiative. Also check out a 2008 Youtube video of Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, the U.N.'s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, who spoke at the event earlier today launching the initiative.