A two-day workshop for understanding of the conditions and compliance of the activities that are to be taken by the regulatory bodies and the financial industry, with help provided by foreign partners, for the purpose of practical implementation of the first Strategy on Financial Literacy and Inclusion of the population

The implementation of the first National Strategy for Financial Education and Inclusion is progressing at a fast pace. In this context, yesterday and today (16 and 17 September 2021), the national financial regulators through the Coordinating Body for financial education and financial inclusion) are hosting a workshop in cooperation with the OECD International Network on Financial Education (OECD/INFE), the Netherlands’ Ministry of Finance (Constituency Program) and the MoneyWise Platform.

The first day addresses the implementation of the Strategy and looks into Coordinated Efforts to Strengthen Financial Literacy in North Macedonia. The second day will focus on digital financial services as a challenge in terms of financial literacy and digital delivery of financial education.

In addition to representatives of the financial regulators, the workshop also welcomes commercial banks, savings houses, pension companies, insurance companies, insurance intermediaries, investment funds management companies, brokerage houses, stock exchange, Central securities depositary, financial companies and other financial system participants. Civil sector representatives and associations, which have so far expressed interest and readiness to implement activities in the area of financial education and consumer protection, will also participate in the event.

“Bearing in mind the importance of financial education in a dynamic and innovative financial system, there is unquestioned need for an innovative and systemic approach based on our Strategy for financial education and financial inclusion. In general, the central banks together with other financial regulatory authorities have the leading role. The last survey on Financial literacy of adults in South East Europe done by OECD (2020) revealed that the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia is the most trusted among central banks in the region as provider of financial education. However, the active participation of other stakeholders, from the private and civil sector is more that welcomed to achieve this mission”, was pointed out by the Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, Anita Angelovska-Bezhoska in the opening address.

„This past two years’ new goals were set up for the future. The pandemic helped to put the importance of investments in education into the focus of the society. There is no doubt that if we want to achieve inclusive growth we must invest in human capital, in education and higher qualification. Investments in human capital provide for better skills, contribute to improved productivity and accelerated economic growth, and lessen the poverty and inequality“, Deputy Minister of Finance, Dimitar Kovacevski pointed out, adding that only with joint efforts we can make a difference in making more educated society.

“I deeply believe that if there is good and profound system of financial education, and if the needs for financial services are clearly understood and articulated, then potential consumers of insurance and other financial services would face less risks of misconduct from financial operators and hence the number of complaints and dissatisfaction from finance service providers would become insignificantly low. Participants on the demand side of the insurance market need financial education. This education should be provided by all stakeholders who have same mutual objective.” – said the President of the Council of experts of the Insurance Supervision Agency, Krste Shajnoski.

„The modern world of finances – globalized, innovative, and with information noise, offers a variety of formal ways for individual financial education. However, better results can be achieved with an institutional approach. Thus, societies need a coordinated and active approach for higher financial literacy levels too. The new Code of Good Practices for Financial Education targets the financial education programs and activities that will be designed and implemented as tools to increase consumers’ financial literacy and capabilities. This will be done with the expectation that such programs and activities will facilitate better-informed decisions about using and managing financial services and risks and thus mitigate potential negative effects. The “Code” will establish all principles that will be applied with the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Education of the population in our country by the public, private and civil sectors involved in this activity” – said Kiril Jovanovski, Commissioner, Security and Exchange Commission of the Republic of North Macedonia.

“In the new economic  trends, when fintech services are increasingly part of our reality, there is a growing need to transform systems and digitize them so that higher levels of financial literacy will be a basic prerequisite for increasing understanding of the pension system and pension products. All this implies the need for our greater commitment to consumer protection activities. As a financial regulator we are actively involved in the overall process, especially in the part for protection of current and future members of the pension system and the analysis of the need to upgrade existing legislation and its harmonization with European standards in this area, where a special challenge for us is establishing supervision of the business practices of the pension entities with a clear focus on the protection of the rights of the members of the pension funds by increasing the transparency of the system, timeliness and accuracy in presenting the results of the system, i.e. providing the best service and product for the client.” – said Darko Sazdov, member of the Council of experts of MAPAS.

From the viewpoint of the Ministry of Finance of Netherlands, the current pandemic has again proven how crucial financial resilience is for citizens. Those who are financially vulnerable are the first to be affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic. Financial education is one key element in improving financial resilience of households. It is crucial to collaborate in order to truly help especially financially vulnerable citizens. There is a lot we can achieve together and learn from each other. As the NL Ministry of Finance, we have the privilege to be host to the Money Wise Platform. This platform is a unique collaboration between many different stakeholders that aim to improve financial fitness of Dutch citizens. The ministry also established a dedicated program for technical cooperation with our constituency countries at the IMF, World Bank and EBRD. In our project with the OECD, MoneyWise and the Constituency Program of the Ministry of Finance have teamed up to support constituency counties in enhancing financial literacy, like the stakeholders in North Macedonia are showing us today.

According to OECD, North Macedonia is to be congratulated for the adoption of its first National Strategy for Financial Education and Financial Inclusion and a Code of Good Practices on Financial Education. The OECD was pleased to support the development of these important initiatives, which testify to the long-term commitment to financial education and financial inclusion of all national stakeholders and in particular the National Bank.

The presentation of the results of the 2020 Survey on financial literacy of the adult population in South East Europe conducted by the OECD/INFE were presented, focusing on the results for our country. Special attention was paid to the issues and areas that will require intense activities in the coming period to advance financial literacy by applying relevant approaches recommended by the OECD. Furthermore, the workshop participants took part in an online survey assessing their readiness and needs to be involved in financial education in the country.

Yesterday, one of the sessions was dedicated to the key issue of the involvement of the private and civil society sector in financial education activities. It examined the OECD/INFE recommendations and guidelines, and the way in which they were adapted to the local context in the framework of the Code of Good Practice for Financial Education, recently adopted by the national financial regulators.

Financial inclusion and consumer protection will be discussed at the event today. A particular emphasis will be placed on the protection of financial consumers in the digital age, by presenting the OECD/INFE policy guidelines, particularly focusing on the expectations of financial regulators. Participants will also look into the trends that accelerated the digitization process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further sessions will be dedicated to the role of digital financial literacy in supporting the users of financial services and products and on good financial education practices for digital financial services for the population.

The shared experiences and views, with active participation of experts from the OECD/INFE and the Netherlands, will contribute to the successful implementation of the first National Strategy for Financial Education and Financial Inclusion adopted in July this year, developed within the regional project coordinated by the OECD/INFE with the generous support of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Finance. The Strategy implementation has already begun, namely with the recent adoption of the Code of Good Practices for Financial Education.