How does the State contribute to financial citizenship?

Autor: Elias Sfeir
Presidente Executivo-ANBC e Conselheiro Certificado-Promovendo a Disciplina de Crédito e Governança Corporativa-Brasil

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In the last humanist democratic culture, Citizenship could be summarized as if a person respects the laws with the right behavior, the State provides safety and well-being to this person.

Financial Citizenship

When we talk about well-being, it means access to economic resources that will be used for a person in life. In last centuries, the economic resources were being operacionalized through the financial system. To have a full Citizenship today, you need to have a Financial Citizenship, your passport for well-being.

How to get financial citizenship?

The first step towards accomplishing this objective is the financial inclusion. The government should act to include citizens through the provision of information to the market. When doing that, it enables the financial system to have the means to evaluate borrowers and what products and services can be offered.

The Positive Data (Cadastro Positivo) designed by Banco Central and the Ministry of Finance in Brazil is the most democratic and efficient mechanism for financial inclusion. The new model to adopted by the government is the opt-out, in other words, everyone joins the Positive Data base and can opt-out. For Richard Thaler, winner of last year’s Nobel prize in Economics, this model should be used whenever people have to make difficult and rare decisions, for which they don’t get immediate feedback.

The second step is the offering of products and services to encompass every social class. Government banks take part of this initiative by offering various products, mainly savings accounts, social security and credit. They also offer insurances and capitalization bonds. In order to obtain the capillarity necessary for serving society, the government can also encourage financial actors to make these offers available.

The third step is providing Financial Education in society so the citizen can choose the best services and financial products available, gaining access to well-being through these economical resources. The government takes part on this phase by offering financial education. There are several strategies that render this objective successful. Among them, the addition of subjects aimed at financial education, the closing of agreements with private bodies for the education of the adult population, the incentive of NGOs dedicated to financial orientation, the usage of consumer protection bodies and the involvement of OSCIP (Civil Society Organization of Public Interest) entities.

Two prominent initiatives of the Brazilian government are the National Financial Education Strategy (ENEF), that was created via presidential decree on December 2010, and the National Committee of Financial Education (Conef), that are responsible for defining plans and programs, besides coordinating the execution of ENEF. Banco Central is a part of Conef, as well as 12 other representative bodies of society and government.

Through ENEF, financial education started to be a state policy. As every state policy, it has a permanent nature and program content, in other words, various planned initiatives that aim for short, medium and long-term objectives.

ENEF actions are free and can be offered by private or public institutions. Public interest should orientate each and every one of the activities, that can’t possess commercial nature. The Financial Education in Schools Program is one of the actions that are part of ENEF. It is coordinated by AEF-Brasil, one of the partners of ANBC, and its objective is to contribute for the development of a culture of planning, prevention, saving, investment, conscious consumption and responsible credit.