Financial inclusion is important for Southeast Asian countries in order to speed up regional development, and intensify connectivity and integration, according to Managing Director of the World Bank Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

“Increasing financial inclusion in ASEAN will be critical for achieving universal access,” she said, noting that many people have no access to financial tools or credit yet.

According to the WB official, ASEAN countries represent 12.3 percent of the world’s unbanked, with Indonesia accounting for 5.9 percent and Vietnam for 2.1 percent.

Small and medium-sized enterprises make up 96 percent of all firms in the region and contribute between 23-58 percent to the total GDP. However, less than 15 percent of those firms are estimated to have sufficient access to credit.

The WB has agreed to assist ASEAN in measuring levels of financial development, monitoring the compliance with core international standards for the financial sector supervision, upgrading financial infrastructure development, and building the capacity for the application and enforcement of financial laws and regulations, she stated.

She shared that the WB is supporting authorities in Indonesia and Vietnam to bring low income people into the financial system through digitising social transfers.

“It is of critical importance that the private sector is providing more and more innovative financial services,” she said, suggesting national authorities encourage the sector to invest more in financial services to create a more conducive regulatory and policy environment.-VNA