Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia, an international banking group, has begun rolling out an electronic payment system that facilitates cash transfers from Fiji’s Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to poor people in rural Fiji. The system, which takes advantage of Westpac’s 20 branches in the country, has distributed social welfare benefits to almost 20,000 people through 36 automated teller machines (ATMs) and 700 merchant points-of-sale (POS). Westpac’s model requires beneficiaries to attend financial literacy training sessions and includes the offering of interest-bearing savings accounts.
Although there have been problems relating to database management, coordination of POS agents and financial education, the benefits to poor Fijians are numerous, according to a post on the CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) Technology Blog. Customers have been able to reduce expensive and time-consuming travel to receive benefits. DSW staff can spend more time focusing on child protection and food distribution instead of handing out stipends. Fraud, corruption and administrative errors are addressed through a comprehensive transaction monitoring database. Financial inclusion has been advanced through regulation from the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) that relaxes “know your customer” (KYC) identification requirements in conjunction with the adoption of bank accounts by welfare beneficiaries. The number of individuals with newly established savings accounts has not been released.
By Rohan Trivedi, Research Associate
About Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia:
Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia is a multinational financial services group that is based in Sydney, Australia. Westpac provides retail, business and institutional banking services in 14 countries with a focus on Southeast Asia and Oceania. As of September 30, 2010, Westpac reported total assets of USD 596 billion.
About The Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF):
Established in 1983, the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) is the nation’s central banking authority. RBF’s statutory authority includes the following: regulating the financial sector, promoting monetary stability and fostering balanced macroeconomic development of the country. As of May 2010 it had total assets of USD 1.26 billion.
Sources and Additional Resources:
 CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) Technology Blog: “G2P starts with government to the poorest in Fiji”, http://technology.cgap.org/2011/06/02/g2p-starts-with-government-to-the-poorest-in-fiji/
MicroCapital.org story, April 1, 2011: “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Reserve Bank of Fiji to Take Microfinance “Expos” to Rural Islands”, http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-reserve-bank-of-fiji-to-take-microfinance-expos-to-rural-islands/
MicroCapital Universe Profile: Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia, http://www.microcapital.org/microfinanceuniverse/tiki-index.php?page=Westpac+Banking+Corporation+of+Australia
MicroCapital Universe Profile: Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF), http://www.microcapital.org/microfinanceuniverse/tiki-index.php?page=Reserve+Bank+of+Fiji+%28RBF%29
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