Westpac Chief Executive Gail Kelly with Hon Julie Bishop.
Westpac has today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), to improve the livelihoods of men and women in the Pacific by increasing their access to finance.
“Our partnership with DFAT represents a step forward in helping support economic development, reduce poverty and lift standards of living in the Pacific,” said Westpac Chief Executive Gail Kelly, who signed the MOU with Hon Julie Bishop MP in Sydney on Monday.
“The MOU focuses on the Pacific countries of Papua New Guinea and Fiji, identifying areas where DFAT and Westpac will share their respective strengths, experiences, technologies and resources to help support economic growth and financial inclusion,” Mrs Kelly added.
Westpac and the Australian Government will work together to substantially improve livelihoods by:
• Embracing innovative solutions for increasing financial inclusion through channels, products and services including Mobile Phone Banking and value added services;
• Exploring options for low-cost international and domestic remittances to reduce the difficulty and cost of Pacific Islanders sending money home and between islands;
• Exploring key infrastructure projects via commercial loans and grant funding;
• Developing a range of initiatives to support the economic empowerment of women;
• Evaluating avenues to extend microfinance to local businesses; and
• Leveraging commercial finance for formal sector businesses through the Pacific Business Fund.
Minister Bishop said that increasing Pacific women’s access to finance is a key aspect of the MOU.
“Greater financial inclusion is key to ensuring women have a full and free participation in economic, political and social life. We welcome the opportunity to work with Westpac to attack some of the constraints that are holding women back from being able to access credit, save money and improve their lives.”
According to Greg Pawson, General Manager, Westpac Pacific, the partnership builds on a number of programs the bank has in place to help improve access to finance for Pacific Islanders.
“Our Mobile Banking services in the Solomon Islands and about to launch in PNG and our In-store Banking services across our countries of operation help mitigate the issues of geographic isolation as a barrier to financial inclusion, by bringing banking into remote and rural communities,” Mr Pawson said. “We’re very excited to be working with DFAT to build on these services and to help make a difference in financial inclusion and economic development.”