Remarks by the Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Council of Fiji MS Seema Shandil at the Multi-Sectoral Panel Discussion on Financial Literacy

March 6, 2023

Theme: Better Together; Networked Path to Financial Literacy

Bula Vinaka and a very lovely morning to you all!

On behalf of the Consumer Council of Fiji, I would like to welcome you all to this very important panel discussion themed ‘Better Together: the networked path to financial literacy.

Ladies and gentleman,

We are living in a world that continues to change rapidly and so does the financial markets with developments in technology and new and more complex financial products.

Hence financial literacy now is more important than ever. And it’s not only about empowering the people of Fiji on the knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks but also the skills, motivation, and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and the economic health of our nation. As we all know the connection between financial literacy and financial stability.

This has been made evident even more so over the past few years due to unprecedented challenges; marred with health crises, climate catastrophes, tensed geo-political relationships and global inflation. These global challenges ultimately underpin one major issue; financial instability.

As we are all experienced first-hand, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the global landscape, affecting our financial, professional, and social environments. The sudden disruptions caused by this public health crisis continues to present economic challenges with growing repercussions. While some factors affecting financial well-being are beyond individual control, financial knowledge can help people better manage their finances through times of hardship and times of prosperity.

Therefore, it is imperative that we equip Fijians with the knowledge and skills to succeed as smart financial consumers in today’s global economy.
But this does not mean that we have not being trying to do just that. As most of the esteemed guests present here this morning can attest, they have been dedicating lot of resources and effort on financial literacy. Just recently our Hon Minister for Finance launch a digital financial literacy program at FDB. We are also aware of the work done by the Reserve Bank, other banks, academia and private organizations.

However, ladies and gentleman,

I fall back on the theme of today’s event Better Together: Networked Path to Financial Literacy.

Just like the collective effort by all stakeholders to combat COVID-19 such as Ministry of Health, disciplined forces, businesses, government and the people of Fiji, there is also a need for collective and streamlined efforts to ensure greater levels of financial literacy among Fijians.

I am sure that all of us here will agree that there is extreme power in partnership and collaboration as opposed to working in silos.

That is why we chose this particular theme and today’s event will act as a platform to bring people together, network, share work and create opportunities for collaboration in order to avoid duplication and create a concerted effort to address financial literacy issues and way forward. Together we could be the financial vaccine many Fijians need to become financially savvy.

Let me remind the forum that SDG 17 is partnership for goals. In order to successfully address issues, partnerships are required between all stakeholders. These inclusive partnerships, built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the local, national, regional and global level.

But before this,

There is also a need to understand the national levels of financial literacy which can be used as baseline and set benchmarks for national strategies or particular programs to ensure that we achieve optimal level of financial literacy.

The question is how do we assess the level of FL each generation or cohorts have and what level of support do they require?

I know it’s a tedious work but the Council feels that a rigorous National Consumer Financial Literacy Measurement Survey should be conducted of course – in conjunction with stakeholders such as yourselves. The findings will provide information based on different age cohorts, demography, geographical locations, income so forth to the policy makers, regulators, the private sector, and academics hence empowering us to develop effective financial education policies and programs.

Of course, our central bank and the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce is doing some remarkable work here. But we are proposing to modify and amplify it whilst working together.

Ladies and gentleman,

The National Consumer Financial Literacy Measurement Survey can also set us as leaders in the region and help guide our fellow pacific islanders.

Where did the Council get this idea?

For almost 2 years, the Council has been working very closely with the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Program. Krishnan, who leads this team is present here today!

Through this partnership, the Council received much needed funding to reach out to people at the grassroots level and create awareness and conduct trainings on financial literacy. This was done through a financial literacy manual created by the PICAP team in close collaboration with the Council and other stakeholders.

Ladies and gentleman,

I’ am happy to share that though this partnership, the Council has conducted in less than 2 years; over 230 workshops, seminars and trainings on financial literacy with 1700 participants nationwide.

Whilst delivering these awareness sessions and trainings, it was obvious that different segments of the society had different needs, different level of understanding and required different levels of assistance.

Therefore, a thorough assessment to provide us a realistic picture can help us design policies, frameworks, e initiatives, tailormade curriculum and advocacy strategies which are impactful and effective. This is where this idea was born.

Something else which I wanted to share with you all today.

We have come a long way over the past three decades, but there still is much to do. A true spirit of collaboration within the financial education community is necessary to unlock the doors to improved financial well-being for all Fijians Anything less than fully embracing our synergy is a disservice to those we all aim to serve. We are stronger together than as one.