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Sweden’s success story for financial inclusion

Gabriel Soderberg, adviser at the financial stability department of Sveriges Riksbank

Sweden is a success story when it comes to financial inclusion – almost 100 percent have a bank account. But, at the same time, we have new issues instead, mainly because cash usage is falling, which means that many shops no longer accept it. It costs a lot of money to take cash, and it’s simply not viable for them. So some people who rely on cash, like the elderly and people with disabilities, are finding it increasingly difficult to lead their life. This is a new form of financial exclusion within the most financial inclusive society on earth – it’s paradoxical.

The most important thing is that we’ve had a strong government that has a great deal of trust among the population, which facilitates trust in all kinds of transactions – you trust in society in a way.

In the 19th century, there were both initiatives from the government trying to get people to save, and also a savings bank popular movement, so this trust has been building for a long time. It has to do with building up strong and non corrupt state bureaucracies and overall democratisation. These are hugely complex process – if we knew how to do it simply, we would do it everywhere. It took a long time, but that doesn’t mean it has to take a long time in another country – it’s difficult to know. You can write whole books, or become a professor, just to answer the question of how to do this.

Financial inclusion was fostered by both government and the public sector – what we’ve seen is a very high degree of interaction between the private and the public sector. You need both, sometimes they collaborate, and sometimes they have a healthy competition – it’s all important.

 

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