Inclusión Financiera

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Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University predicts that cash will disappear in a matter of 10 to 20 years. A few weeks ago, I had my doubts. I found myself in a typical situation – short on cash while waiting for my check at a restaurant in a small city in an Andean country, where I had had lunch with three colleagues. Several attempts at withdrawing cash from three different ATMs had failed; “incompatible network,” the message read.

What relief to learn that this restaurant accepted credit and debit cards! This would allow me to keep the little cash I had on me. I gladly paid with my card, despite the 3% foreign transaction fee I would incur. When the check arrived, the owner turned to me and said, “If you pay cash we can give you a 5% discount.” In other words, “cash is cheaper.”

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In a blog post published back in august 2012, we spoke about how the MIF and the Access to Finance Unit of Chile’s Ministry of Social Development were elaborating a methodology for diagnosing and measuring financial inclusion. As we move forward in designing a financial inclusion survey – with the support of the Analistas Financieros Internacionales (AFI) consulting firm and the team lead in charge of the Ministry’s National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey (CASEN) – we are closely monitoring other efforts to measure financial inclusion in the region. One of the questions that come up is how to ensure that the measurements we conduct are comparable to existing results?

Let’s take a look at Mexico. Over a year since the world Bank published the results of its Global Findex survey, we have come to know the results of the first National Financial Inclusion Survey (ENIF) conducted by the National Banking and Securities Commission of Mexico (CNBV) with the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

According to Findex’s survey data (conducted by Gallup in 2011), Mexico was lagging behind in different financial indicators for Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, only 7,6% of adults were reported to have a loan at a financial institution, placing Mexico behind countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Bolivia. Nonetheless, the data published by ENIF placed Mexico ahead of these countries for this particular indicator, with 27,5% of the adult population receiving credit from a formal financial institution – 20 percentage points above Findex’s figures.

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