National financial inclusion targets, better data availability, and transformative business models to provide financial services are helping to accelerate financial inclusion across the globe and in Asia – where more than a billion of unbanked people live.
Countries set national financial inclusion goals to increase the pace and impact of reforms. For this to be effective, it’s critical to have in place a robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system to track progress, identify obstacles, and demonstrate success. However, it’s often difficult to evaluate and track the extent and quality of the national financial inclusion strategy implementation, and to aggregate the results of multiple actions at the national level.
The Philippines has adopted a fresh approach to this challenge by designing a comprehensive M&E system that will report on headline and national-level indicators, as well as track progress of the regional and program-level performance indicators.
The Philippines is one of the 25 countries that are part of the World Bank Group’s Universal Financial Access 2020 initiative, whose goal is to provide access to a transaction account to the 2 billion unbanked people worldwide.
Between 2011 and 2014, . This resulted in some 2.7 million adults gaining access to formal financial services. Potential demand is significant, considering that an estimated 10 million Filipinos keep savings outside of the formal financial system.
To scale up and focus the efforts to improve financial inclusion in the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), together with 13 other agencies, launched a National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) in 2015.
The focus on data and measurement is a fundamental part of NSFI implementation and is incorporated as one of the pillars of the strategy. The work on data and measurement under NSFI is led by a dedicated multi-agency working group and supported by the NSFI secretariat housed at BSP.
BSP has implemented a National Baseline Survey on Financial Inclusion to collect demand-side data and inform NSFI efforts. The NSFI Secretariat now routinely compiles and analyzes a plethora of supply-side information to construct a full picture of progress toward financial inclusion over time.
The Philippines has pioneered a unique approach to gather relevant data on activities, inputs and indicators to enable collaborative reporting by the various implementing agencies.
Through NSFI working groups, BSP devised reporting templates for each implementing agency. It then used consolidated inputs on activities the agencies developed and indicators they selected to develop the M&E system.
These inputs include performance-level activities and indicators that agencies can regularly report, and can be used to monitor national progress, as well as the granular activity-level progress on implementation.
This approach ensures that each agency has ownership and accountability of its commitments to implement NFIS activities and report indicators.
As a result, agencies aren’t expected to implement activities or report indicators that are out of their control, are difficult to manage or require additional funding.
This collaborative and consultative approach has allowed the Philippines to develop an M&E system to easily collect inputs for NSFI.
It has also helped the country avoid many potential issues such as gaps in data, a lack of ownership or accountability of specific NSFI actions, or challenges in tracking activity-level implementation.
The NSFI Secretariat can clearly map activities, progress and indicators of each implementing agency and act pro-actively where needed.
This approach creates a solid and practical foundation for the successful implementation of NSFI activities and a comprehensive evaluation system that monitors the performance, implementation and national progress of the NSFI.
There is a saying: “If you want to go fast – go alone, but if you want to go far – go together.” The unprecedented level of collaboration for NSFI implementation is a good sign for future progress on improving financial inclusion in the Philippines.