Asia-Pacific countries met on the sidelines of the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development in New York this week to explore opportunities for scaling up the Financial Technology Industry (Fintech), such as mobile money and microlending companies, to meet the ambitious targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The high-level participants recognized the need to increase access to financial services for SMEs and the region’s poorest people, if the aim of mobilizing 2.5 trillion annually in Asia and the Pacific is to be attained. They noted however that regulators would need to strike the right balance between facilitating innovation, maintaining financial stability and ensuring consumer protection.
Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, the side event provided a platform for countries to review their experience in pursuing FinTech initiatives, and identify policy and regulatory challenges in harnessing their potential in the region.
In her opening remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar underscored that access to financial services is an integral component of the global financing for the development agenda. “Frontier technologies are offering new solutions for providing an impetus to financial inclusion,” she said.
“FinTech solutions include cell phone apps that allow users to execute online transactions, such as bill payments, store credit scoring of consumers and small businesses owners based on big data analytics, along with online alternative financing platforms such as peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding.”
Dr. Akhtar emphasized that, “Asia-Pacific is leading globally the Fintech emergence and they are transforming the way people pay, send money, borrow, lend, and invest.”
Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Minister of Finance, Bangladesh added, “We need to create a regional platform for sharing experiences and best practices to enhance MSMEs access to finance in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Mr. Bambang P.S. Brodjonegoro, Minister of National Development Planning, Indonesia further underscored that governments need to “highlight the importance of proper regulatory framework to take advantage of FinTech to support the attainment of SDGs particularly in tackling inequality.”
Panel members at the special side event included: Kairat Umarov, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN; Mustafa Mastoor, Minister of Economy of Afghanistan; Nim Dorji, Finance Secretary of Bhutan; Mohammad Khazaee, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs and Head of the Organization for Investments and Economic Assistance, Islamic Republic of Iran; Azeema Adam, Government of Maldives Envoy for FFD, and Odo Tevi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the UN.
Along with Kathleen DeRose, Clinical Associate Professor of Finance and FinTech Leader, NYU’s Stern School of Business; Xiaochen Zhang, President of Fintech4Good; Alisa DiCaprio, Head of Research at R3; Alexander R. Malaket, President of OPUS Advisory Services International Inc., and Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.
Participants also concluded that Asia-Pacific’s intergovernmental platform for financing for development, steered by ESCAP, is already disseminating new developments in digital technology and advising on the infrastructure needed to tackle pervasive financial exclusion in the region. This event served as a step in this direction, as it provided a peer learning opportunity and a platform for sharing of knowledge and experiences.
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