Digital financial services are somehow closing the gap of providing aid to disaster-stricken areas especially in countries with a geographical configuration like the Philippines, according to a study titled “Cash in Hand,” conducted by international development organization Oxfam together with financial technology partner PayMaya.
The study, which is based on experience in responding to emergencies in Mindanao and typhoon-affected parts of the Philippines, showed that inclusive and efficient financial services improve people’s welfare, hasten the delivery of social benefits, spur economic activity, reduce transaction costs, and incentivize innovations in both the private and humanitarian sectors.
“Our experience and ongoing research on cash programming have shown us that using digital financial services platforms for cash assistance helps stimulate local economies,” said Lot Felizco, country director, Oxfam Pilipinas.
“This becomes an entry point for financial inclusion because the poor and unbanked can use financial products to manage risks, grow savings, and access credit to diversify their livelihood opportunities.”
Oxfam is a global non-profit organization that works in more than 90 countries, including the Philippines, to address the underlying problems of poverty and inequality.
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Financial inclusion is similarly correlated with the reduction of economic inequality by providing means for marginalized people to overcome barriers to access to financial services, which arise from a lack of information, collateral, and credit history.
In this regard, digital financial products such as the PayMaya e-wallet and card, in conjunction with on-ground, grassroots access through its nationwide Smart Padala agent network, provide the much-needed pathways for timely and efficient disbursement of financial aid, and the eventual use of funds for recovery after the crisis.
“Our partnership with Oxfam is a clear testament to how we can empower the most vulnerable sectors of society through innovation. This is at the heart of what we do at PayMaya and we will continue to support similar initiatives,” said Shailesh Baidwan, president of PayMaya.
Data from the 2017 Financial Inclusion Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that almost 7 out of 10 Filipino adults still have to experience financial inclusion, having no formal access to financial services like savings, micro-insurance, micro-credit, payments, and remittance.
A BSP 2017 report also noted that almost one-third of the total number of municipalities and cities in the Philippines have no bank or automated teller machine. Only 44 of the 143 municipalities in Eastern Visayas have banks. It is even worse in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where only 10 municipalities out of 118 have at least one bank.
Eastern Visayas and BARMM are Oxfam’s priority areas for humanitarian and development programming. From 2016 to 2018, Oxfam and its partners reached about 42,000 individuals through the IAFFORD (Inclusive and Affordable Financial Facilities for Resilient and Developed Filipinos) Project.
The project also provided 11,538 people, a majority of whom are women, access to digital and conventional financial products for life and livelihood assets protection.
Through this initiative, Oxfam and its partners hope to strengthen collaborative efforts amongst development agencies, the government, and the private sector, and further contribute to efforts to reduce poverty and vulnerability.