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Pakistan has best regulatory environment for microfinance

Pakistan-flag 400ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has one of the best regulatory environments in the world for microfinance and one of the fastest-growing microfinance sectors with 3m borrowers.


The country is also one of the most innovative places in the world for mobile banking services, partly due to the State Bank of Pakistan's moves to encourage the market, according to an article recently carried by The Financial Times.


About 1.5m customers make about 30m transactions a quarter through mobiles, using a network of 20,000 agents, mainly local shops, to collect their cash.


The education sector in Pakistan, the article pointed, has a record in picking up new approaches to learning.


Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad, the first open university outside the UK, is the second largest in the world with 1.8m students. Start- ups such as Tele Taleem, tucked away on a dusty industrial estate on the outskirts of Islamabad, are pioneering ways to take learning to schools in the remoter regions, through satellite links and cheap tablet computers.


Donors are playing a vital role in promoting social innovation, it maintained.


The UK's Department for International development has pioneered a new road map for school improvement in Punjab, which Sir Michael Barber, the education reform expert, says is delivering one of the world's fastest improvement in school performance. In Karachi, tens of thousands of poorer families will next year receive vouchers to send their children to low-cost private schools.


In agriculture, social venture capitalists such as Indus Basin Holdings are leading efforts to link groups of small scale rice farmers to multinational companies.


The newspaper is of the view that at the grassroots, Pakistan is in perpetual motion, with ceaseless creativity as people find affordable solutions to their basic needs. These largely hidden forces of resilience offer the best hope for the country's future and the society is far stronger than many think.


Appreciating the most effective charitable role of individuals, the newspaper said due to the great spirit of charity of Islam it was possible that the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by floods in 2010 are not still living in tents.


More than 100,000 Lady Health Workers, funded by government, has helped to reduce markedly the number of women and babies who die in child birth, according to studies by the World Bank, the newspaper added.


Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2012


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