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Central bank calls for microfinance, accountability

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 1, 2010) - ALL COMMERCIAL banks and players in Fiji's financial industry, including new entrants, will have to comply with three new policy guidelines issued by the central bank following its final 2009 meeting two weeks ago.

The new guidelines, issued to commercial banks on December 22, include the:

Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji Sada Reddy said each guideline provided for the establishment of an enabling policy governance structure, and clearly spelt minimum operational requirements.

He said these guidelines were targeted at promoting broad based economic development and great financial inclusion.

"This includes extension of financial services to the informal sector of the economy and ensuring that commercial banks undertake development activities suitable to the needs of people in Fiji," Mr. Reddy said in a statement yesterday.

He said the guideline on Local Advisory Board applied specifically to foreign bank operations, aimed to banks better understand and align its strategies to Fiji's regulatory and supervisory environment, national development objectives, and the provision of financial services to the wider community.

"The guideline requires Local Advisory Board members to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of Fiji's business and socio-economic environment and the banking industry, as well as an awareness of the long term growth strategies of the Government," Mr. Reddy said.

The complaints management guideline aimed to ensure commercial banks and licensed credit institutions addressed customer complaints efficiently and effectively.

"The guideline should provide customers with confidence that their complaints will be given due consideration. Under the guideline, the Board of commercial banks and licensed credit institutions, or its proxy is required to approve the policy framework for complaints management, clearly defining the responsibilities for senior management and complaints handling staff," Mr. Reddy said.

He said it was "imperative that clear delegation of authority for complaints handling is established and that adequate training is provided to complaints handling staff".

"All branches must keep a complaint register while a master register is kept at the head office. The banks and credit institutions are encouraged to undertake public awareness campaigns on their complaints management framework," he added.

Mr. Reddy said the microfinance guideline required commercial banks to "innovatively and effectively" extend sustainable banking services to Fiji's marginalized, poor communities and individuals, and small and micro enterprises, to empower them to participate in economy building and in the development of their welfare".

"The guideline encourages a greater role for commercial banks in promoting financial inclusion," he said.

The three new guidelines became effective today, January 1, 2010 and apply to existing and new entrants into Fiji's banking industry.


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