THE PHILIPPINES is among the leaders in promoting financial inclusion in the world, according to a study.

Despite its slip by one spot to place fifth with an overall score of 71 in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Microscope Report 2019, which assesses the enabling environment for financial inclusion of 55 countries, the Philippines is still the leading country in Asia alongside India in the promotion of financial inclusion, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Among the report’s five standard categories, the country logged its highest score as third placer in terms of stability and integrity domain that looks into the regulation, supervision, and monitoring of financial service providers that are geared for low and middle-income populations.

“Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has created a support institution to focus on digital financial technology for reaching the underserved,” the report said.

“We are happy to see continued recognition of BSP’s lead role in the National Strategy and financial inclusion efforts including work on fintech,” Pia Bernadette Roman-Tayag told BusinessWorld in a text message.

The report noted the institutionalization of the Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) in 2016 which serves as the governing body that streamlines strategic direction, guidance, and oversight in the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI).

“The Philippines has increased its focus on digital financial inclusion, with the launch of a biometric national identification system and a programme to provide a one-stop shop for online government services,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the country’s lowest ranking (23rd) was for consumer protection which also includes privacy regulation and enforcement capabilities.

According to the report, the country’s strength where it scored first place was with credit portfolio for middle and low-income customers, market entry, and the ongoing requirements for products.

On the other hand, the study said that the Philippines still has room to improve in commitment to cyber security, connectivity, and emerging services.

“We also note the areas for improvement such as credit information and consumer protection particularly for digital financial services. We are working on these areas,” Ms. Roman-Tayag said.

The Global Microscope is a yearly assessment by the research arm of The Economist Group of 55 countries on their respective initiatives and provides information on global trends and issues in financial inclusion.

For 2019, rounding out the top five, in descending order, were Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, and the Philippines and India, which were tied at fifth place. — L.W.T. Noble