Achieving SDGs: Bangladesh Bank strategises financial inclusion goal

S.K. Sur Chowdhury   | Published: September 24, 2018 21:33:00 | Updated: September 24, 2018 22:10:35


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Some new important areas are included in SDGs like climate change, economic inequality, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, etc. The goals are interconnected. The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations.

This initiative provides clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large. The SDGs are an inclusive agenda. We expect that this, in turn, will tackle the root causes of poverty and unite us together to make a positive change for both people and planet.

The government of Bangladesh has politically committed itsefl to meeting the UN-sponsored SDGs. But challenges are there. The SDGs include 17 goals and 169 targets that set out quantitative and qualitative objectives. The newly incorporated goals in the SDGs are more comprehensive and extensive in nature. And thus it will explore development schemes of vital importance to humanity at large. Five out of seventeen goals of SDGs are directly and more intensively while some other goals are indirectly/loosely related with the activities of the banking sector of Bangladesh. As a regulatory authority, Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country's central bank, is actively working on the achievement of its related goals through inclusive and sustainable strategy; and other policy measures.

A mapping has been done by the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh including different ministries/divisions by SDGs' goals and targets. In mapping the roles of BB as the central bank of the country are also identified. In line with that the central bank of Bangladesh has also identified the relevant departments and specified the department-wise targets as a part of our monitoring and evaluation to facilitate the achievement of SDGs in time.

As we are aware that the BB has been pursuing its Monetary and Credit policy with a view to facilitating and strengthening economic growth, strategically focusing on inclusive financing through small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) financing, micro finance, agriculture financing, special financing for vulnerable groups including youth and women, green financing. One of the core functions of the central bank of Bangladesh is to formulate and implement monetary policy, broadly fixing some monetary and credit targets aligned with SDGs and their targets.

 Sustainable Finance Department has been primarily working as Coordinator and Focal Department of SDGs coordination committee in the BB where it will provide all types of knowledge and coordination support in monitoring & evaluation and capacity building functions. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and green banking are also very importantly linked with the SDGs.

  Bangladesh Bank has been pursuing policies supporting to bring unbanked section of the people and sectors of the economy under the umbrella of banking sector through various initiatives like opening no-frill account for farmers, refinancing for 10-taka account holders, school banking account; and introducing agent banking system etc. As more and more sectors and segment of population will be coming under the purview of the banking sector, the economy will be broad-based; growth will be sustainable as well.

 By 2030, SDG agenda seeks to ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technologies and financial services including microfinance.

 Digital financial services are very helpful in achieving financial inclusion. The policy initiatives of the central bank also include the issue of providing such services. Various important goals of the SDGs are linked with financial inclusion. Different categories of banks in Bangladesh are also trying to play their role in achieving the targets of financial inclusion with the guidance and supervision of the central bank.

Achieving SDGs is of course a difficult and challenging task. It is not possible for any particular institution or stakeholder to achieve these very comprehensive goals. Appropriate policy initiatives, well-functioning institutions with proper motivation, continuous collective efforts and coordination among different stakeholders may ensure the success in this way of development.

 Like the achievement of MDGs, to uphold the image of Bangladesh, the people of the country need to work together in this regard. Moreover, achieving the SDGs requires the partnership of governments, private sector, civil society and citizens alike to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.

SK Sur Chowdhury is Banking Reform Adviser and Former Deputy Governor, Bangladesh. bank.sksur.chowdhury@bb.org.bd

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