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25 September 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippines has been cited by no less than Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands for the innovative Public-Private Partnership approach that put in place a digital delivery platform for its Conditional Cash Transfer program.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said Gates and Queen Maxima made special mention of the Philippine initiative in their remarks during a forum on “Digital Financial Inclusion” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 September.

The forum, which was held to mark the first anniversary of the Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA), focused on the urgent need for governments to partner with the private sector and make digitalization of accounts, remittances and cash transfers a priority in order to drive economic growth in developing and emerging economies.

Ambassador Cuisia said the Forum highlighted the strides made by the BTCA and partner countries like the Philippines and Malawi in promoting the transition from cash to electronic or digital payments that can create lasting benefits for underserved communities and emerging economies.

In her remarks, Queen Maxima, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, noted that the examples set by Malawi for agricultural digital fund transfers and the Philippines’ Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program and its tapping of a private sector provider such as GCash are successful models of this growing advocacy.

Gates, chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, observed that countries and the private sector have to be more forward looking and intuitive in appreciating the impact of digital financial modes for many underserved and hard-to-reach communities.

He said the technologies being used both in Malawi and in the Philippines CCTs through GCash system are illustrations of how fertile the technology is to assist communities and countries in the emerging world.

For his part, Ambassador Cuisia, who represented Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in the Forum, invited the audience to look at the Philippines’ attempt at digital inclusion as an illustration of how this can be a valuable tool for promoting transparency, security and inclusion in financial transactions.

“With the digital delivery of CCTs, more individuals have become financially literate; have gained access to the financial system; and are more aware of technological tools and the decision-making process that comes with financial inclusion,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Paolo Eugenio Baltao, President of G-Xchange, Inc. (Philippines), encouraged governments to link up with the private sector to make digital financial inclusion a priority initiative that would benefit those with little or no access to the formal financial system.

The BCTA was founded last year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Citi; Ford Foundation; Omidyar Network; the United States Agency for International Development; and Visa Inc. with the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) serving as the secretariat.

Its partners include the Grameen Foundation and Mastercard, which announced earlier this month a $1.5 million dollar grant for the program. The Forum’s government partners are the Philippines, Malawi, Colombia, Afghanistan, Kenya and Peru.

Its other partners in the development community are ACDI/VOCA; Chemonics International; MEDA; Mercy Corps; the UN Development Program; and the World Food Program. ###