North Macedonia’s first national Strategy for Financial Education and Financial Inclusion 2021-2025 was promoted and adopted on Thursday. The document aims to ensure support and further development of financial education and inclusion, as well as establishment of appropriate education programs that will reduce the existing financial gaps among certain population groups.
The strategy was drafted by a coordinative body of financial regulators for financial education and financial inclusion helmed by a National Bank team, within a regional project backed by the Dutch Ministry of Finance and the OECD International Network on Financial Education.
Relevant private financial institutions and civil society organizations were included in the final stage of the process.
The strategy aims to strengthen coordination and cooperation between financial regulators, the private finance sector and the non-governmental sector, as well as ensure systematic approach of all stakeholders to enhancing financial literacy among the population and improve the level of financial inclusion, while providing consumers with appropriate protection.
National Bank Governor Anita Angelovska-Bezhoska told Thursday’s strategy promotion that the document aims to establish appropriate education programs, set to reduce the gaps present among certain population groups.
“Increased financial literacy creates conditions for better access to financial services, but we also need to protect citizens from excessive risk exposure. In the upcoming period, we’ll put special focus on activities aimed at providing appropriate protection for customers,” the Governor said.
According to her, financial education is a process during which individuals build their capacity to better understand financial products and capacities, develop skills to make well-informed financial decisions and raise awareness over risks and opportunities.
“The financial education process requires information, guidelines and above all else, a systematic approach. Therefore, there’s a need for coordinated approach at national level, i.e. a strategic framework that will recognize the importance of education, ensure inclusion and coordination among relevant stakeholders and define a map of activities for achieving goals,” Angelovska-Bezhoska noted.
She stressed that according to latest World Bank data, although 77% of the adult population have bank accounts, this figure is incomparable to the European and Central Asian average, which stands at some 82%. Nonetheless, the Governor added, several other financial inclusion indicators point to obstacles in the access to finance.
OECD analysis for the region shows that people with greater computer skills are also more financially literate.
“Taking into account the financial literacy gap among certain population groups, the strategy focuses on the younger population, lower income citizens, less educated nationals and the female population,” Angelovska-Bezhoska told the event.
She underlined that young people have great potential, which should be invested in. Women also deserve greater attention, as they demonstrate lower levels of financial literacy, both in North Macedonia and across the world.
According to the Governor, the adoption of the first national strategy is a crucial step towards achieving goals, but its upcoming implementation is of even greater importance.
Finance Minister Fatmir Besimi told Thursday’s event that financial education and inclusion are the foundation for the stability of the financial system. Increased levels of financial literacy will improve the protection of financial service users and enhance the inclusion of different categories.
This, the minister added, will contribute to improving the quality and quantities of the financial sector performance.
According to him, the strategy and its implementation plan entail multiple steps for achieving the eight goals and 19 measures defined in the strategy.
The Minister added that the financial inclusion portion of the strategy entails measures aimed at creating a legal framework for increasing inclusion and access to education of different categories, harmonizing EU and domestic legislation, monitoring global trends and customer protection.
“This legal solution should in the upcoming year contribute to the liberalization of the payment service market, introduction of new payment service providers, etc. set to improve financial inclusion and promote informal economy,” Besimi underlined.
The President of the Council of Experts of the Insurance Supervision Agency, Krste Shajnoski, stressed the importance of speeding up the financial education and inclusion process, having in mind the low level of development of the insurance market within the financial system.
“The adoption of the strategy will allow us to achieve common goals, such as financial market growth and development, wide reach and availability of financial services at fair prices, etc.,” Shajnoski said.
The strategy also entails development of education programs for citizens of different ages, in line with the basic competences for financial education set out in a separate document as part of the strategy.