Are Bank Branches Dead? Economic and Finance Committee Discuss Going Digital

By JUDY PERPOSE, Financial Times

BOSTON, Mass. (Financial Times) — The Economic and Finance Committee home in on developing an international policy to promote access to financial services.

Yesterday, the committee heard from the delegates of Saudi Arabia who called for the implementation of Mobile Money across the global stage in light of recent successes in Vision 2030 plan. As reports revealed roughly 180 mobile phones for every 100 residents in Saudi Arabia, delegates continue to urge the committee to move toward technological-based initiatives to promote access to bank accounts and private savings.

Today, delegates meet once again at the Terrace room at the Boston Plaza to discuss several options.

Delegates of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have expressed their disagreement with the focus of Saudi Arabia on technological investments and instead urges for  further investment in physical infrastructure.

When asked about how Haiti would proceed given Saudi Arabia’s firm stance on technological investment, the delegate from Haiti responded that they are, “We are willing to debate, but it is not our primary issue. Our primary issue is expanding physical concrete infrastructure, actual banks in cities.”

In collaboration with the Dominican Republic, Haiti hopes to pass a new plan called “ATMS” (Accessibility, Technology, monitoring and Sandbox) plan. The plan seeks to enhance financial education programs through integration into the regular school curriculum for young students in addition to adult learning programs.

ATMS is said to assist in the development of financially disadvantaged nations such as Haiti that have little infrastructure investment given recent natural disasters and lack of government revenue to finance such huge projects and commitments.

Like Saudi Arabia, Haiti has a high percentage of households with access to a mobile phone. A report by Dalberg Global Development Advisors estimated 85% of households have access to a mobile phone.

This does raise the question of why Haiti is in favour of infrastructure investments before any action on broad implementation on mobile money programs.

Haiti has said that their nation is unable to have accessible financial institutions (like physical banks) in their nation without outside capital from the international community. Its partner, the Dominican Republic, does appear to be more open to investments to digital technology and the delegation supports alternative practices of microcredit systems to assist residents who are unable to pay loans.

Dominican Republic expressed interest to continue to work with NGOs on possible assistance for both hard infrastructure and digital banking.



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