IMF Launches Project to Compile Data on Consumer Access to Basic Financial Services

Press Release No. 09/351
October 5, 2009

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today launched the “Access to Finance Project,” which is aimed at collecting annual geographic and demographic data on access to basic consumer financial services worldwide. The aim of the project is development of high-quality, cross-country data for policy makers and researchers.

Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, joined IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Istanbul to unveil the project, which stems from proposals in 2008 by the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. Princess Máxima chaired the group on which the IMF is represented.

Princess Máxima said a key limitation in terms of encouraging financing to some of the world’s poor is the gap in data related to level of access to financial services. She noted that “inclusive finance” is a powerful tool that will help reduce poverty, empower women, and contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn noted that the policy goal of ensuring financial access has taken on even greater relevance in the context of the global financial crisis, which has had ramifications for the availability of credit in both developed and developing countries. Improvements in data collection will assist policymakers in better understanding the linkage between financial access, economic growth, and poverty reduction, he added.

It is envisioned that the data system will help identify knowledge gaps and priorities for policies on broadening financial access, and enable authorities to monitor the effectiveness of policies over time. The IMF data project is also designed to promote research and analysis to better understand the determinants and implications of financial access and usage.

Specifically, data will be collected on the geographical and demographical outreach of financial services. The outreach of financial services is proxied by bank branch network, availability of automated teller machines, and by four key financial instruments: deposits, loans, debt securities issued, and insurance. To foster the use of a common methodology in the data to be collected, the definitions, financial institutional units, and financial instruments covered in the survey will be based on the IMF’s Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual and its accompanying Compilation Guide.

The financial access indicators and accompanying metadata will be disseminated on the IMF web site after data reporting by countries has been established on a regular basis. The data reporting system is expected to be in place in the first half of 2010.

Initial funding for the project is provided by the government of the Netherlands. Financing for subsequent years will be borne by the IMF.



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