MAS teams up with UN agency to boost ASEAN digital finance

20 April 2017   Category: News, Asia, Singapore   By Asia Asset Management

Singapore’s central bank has partnered with a United Nations agency to faciliate development and access to digital financial services among countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) said in a statement that they will explore opportunities to work on digitalisation of low-tier financial institutions, including cooperatives, microfinance providers, and banks, in ASEAN. This would allow financial service providers to provide better access and usage to the marginalised population in the region, including women and the low income.

The work will be carried out under the UNCDF’s ongoing Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations, or SHIFT, programme. The UNCDF is a capital investment agency for the world’s least developed countries, and provides grants, loans and technical support for projects.

“We believe that financial services has a role to play in the economic empowerment of women and the marginalised,” Sopnendu Mohanty, chief FinTech [financial technology] officer of MAS, says in the statement.

“We are pleased to partner with MAS to promote financial inclusion initiatives that benefit the financially excluded, particularly low income individuals, women and small businesses, across ASEAN,” adds Feisal Hussain, senior regional technical advisor and SHIFT programme manager. “The collaboration between our respective organisations will further enhance support at country and regional level to both private sector and policymakers.”

MAS, in its first action under the tie-up, is a supporting partner in the SHIFT programme’s latest Challenge Fund initiative. The fund provides co-funding grants for innovative business models that foster regulated international remittances to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam for women, and increase adoption and usage of remittance-linked financial products and services in these countries. 

The growing influx of international remittances to the four countries “is playing a significant role in economic development in the Mekong region, and can act as a catalyst for the development of the local digital financial services ecosystem by providing greater access to basic financial services”, according to the statement.