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Launching of Sarathi- Progress through Financial Inclusion

Sarathi- Progress through Financial Inclusion, implemented by Swisscontact and funded by MetLife Foundation, was officially launched on 19 April 2018 in Lakeshore Hotel Dhaka. It is a 30-month project starting from January 2018 to June 2020. The project is being implemented by Swisscontact and funded by MetLife Foundation. The targeted beneficiaries of this project are the RMG workers in Bangladesh. The RMG workers, estimated to be 4.5 million in number, despite their significant contribution in the national economy and global fashion industry, remain outside the purview of formal banking sector with limited or no access to relevant, quality and affordable banking products and services. After successful completion of the pilot phase from January 2016 to December 2017, benefiting over 1,100 RMG workers, the project will now scale-up its direct reach to at least 60,000 RMG workers with formal banking services and products.

The project is implemented through partner commercial banks that will provide banking services and products through their agent banking networks in the country. Currently, Bank Asia Ltd. and The City Bank Ltd. have signed agreements with Swisscontact in this regard. Already, 3 major RMG factories have agreed to implement these banking services for their workers. The targeted outcome of this project is to bring 30 RMG factories onboard to disburse RMG workers’ salaries through bank accounts, and improve their basic financial literacy on topics such as how to use bank accounts and cards, the benefits of saving products, gaining control and privacy over earnings, how to plan and pay for recurring expenses, gaining access to saving and credit products, etc.

 

To achieve its goal, Sarathi project will work in four major areas:

  • Wage Digitization: RMG workers will receive their salaries through their bank accounts using Agent Outlets, bank branches or ATMs. These accounts will be opened using tabs and biometric machines at Agent Outlets and bank branches.
  • Product Development: Besides salary, customized savings and credit products will be developed offered based on RMG workers’ financial need and capacity.
  • Financial Literacy: To increase RMG workers’ knowledge on the financial services and products, regular financial literacy and counselling will be conducted in and around RMG factories, targeting RMG workers and community members.
  • Collaboration with regulator: With support from regulators, initiations for the development of efficient Alternate Delivery Channels to reach a wider unbanked population will be undertaken.

 

In his speech, the chief guest, Mr. M. A. Mannan, MP, State Minister of Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Finance, GoB said, “We need to agree that poverty is not our only problem, there are many other factors. The step that we have taken, we want inclusion through affirmative actions to spread its benefits for a greater cause. You are helping to do this. We want to thank initiatives like this, and please note, our Honorable Prime Minister also appreciates these works.”

 

Special guest Mr. Md. Shafiqur Rahman Patwari, Chairman, Insurance Development & Regulatory Authority, in his speech, said, “I am delighted to know that MetLife, being a part of this insurance industry, is not limited to doing business only. It is also involved in social development through its philanthropic arm MetLife Foundation, which has been doing so by partnering with a good number of development organizations in the country, of which Swisscontact is one. I am happy to learn that Sarathi aims to include 60,000 RMG workers into the financial ecosystem and reach to 200,000 RMG workers by 2020. I wish all the success to Sarathi project.”

 

Mr. Anirban Bhowmik, Country Director of Swisscontact in Bangladesh stressed on the issue saying, “Without having access to appropriate financial services for people with limited income, struggle to cope with financial shocks remains. Ensuring access to appropriate services is one of the center pieces of this massive economic puzzle that we all need to solve together. And on the backdrop of such challenge, Swisscontact, jointly with MetLife Foundation, has taken this initiative to work with commercial banks to develop appropriate channels and financial services to expand network of formal financial services among RMG workers, who, otherwise, are largely left behind.”

 

Md. Nurul Islam, Chairman of MetLife Bangladesh, Nepal & Myanmar, who represents MetLife’s CSR activities through its Foundation in Bangladesh, in his speech, said, “We are proud to play a role in the continued development of the financial services sector of this country. Not only in our business, but through the MetLife Foundation we are deeply committed to ensuring that all citizens have access to the financial services that will enable them to build strong families and communities. We have committed USD 12 million to work with partners in Bangladesh to implement projects like this and impact, ultimately, millions of families.”

 

Mr. Mansoor Ahmed, First Vice President, BKMEA conveyed: “Advance congratulations to Swisscontact and MetLife Foundation for their timely initiative. To achieve the Digital Bangladesh by 2021, I think financial inclusion is a very timely initiative. I believe that this will play a big role in achieving the SDG goal seven. As the only representative from BKMEA, I would say we are participating in Bangladesh leadership building, changing lives and economic development. BKMEA welcomes this kind of and will stand beside them for any kind of support.”

 

There was a panel discussion on “Financial Inclusion in the RMG Sector in Bangladesh: Building the Ecosystem”. The panel discussants were Mr. Syed Hammadul Karim, General Manager MetLife, Bangladesh; Dr. Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director, Center for Policy Dialogue; Mr. Mohammad Bin Quasem, Director, Echotex Ltd.; Mr. Arfan Ali, President and Managing Director, Bank Asia Ltd.; Mr. Mashrur Arefin, Additional Managing Director, The City Bank Ltd. and Mr. Kazi Mahfuz Mamtazur Rahman, Team Leader, Sarathi. Mr. Anirban Bhowmik, Country Director, Swisscontact Bangladesh was the moderator of the panel discussion.

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