Posted On: April 19th, 2017
Bhutanese youth represent nearly 30 percent of the country’s demographic. As a member of such a large group, youth hold the power to contribute and bolster the country’s economic growth. When people save, they are more financially secure, making themselves and their country stable. Bhutan wants you to save and is investing in youth financial inclusion. An increase in youth savings boosts the country’s overall gross savings rate. That said, no matter how much the Royal Government of Bhutan, financial institutions, or NGOs do, ultimately, it is up to you to become economic citizens, not just for the country,but also for yourself.
Why is it important to save?
Growing up and going through the transitions of life–school, marriage, and kids–is costly. If education creates a financial burden for your family, that burden is not likely to disappear. So, start saving up for school or at least to defray some parts of the costs.
Getting married and having children are also financially stressful life events. Again, saving up at a young age can help mitigate costs later, even if saving one Ngultrum a week doesn’t seem like a lot. It adds up.
Youth are an influential and large demographic of Bhutan’s society. As this population ages out, they will become a key economic group. Starting to save at a young age introduces the group to economic opportunities and better economic outcomes. Saving allows you to build your financial assets, to overcome poverty, and to develop economic mobility. Financial inclusion results in the empowerment and growth of the youth population.
Saving early teaches healthy financial habits and capability. You learn about and start to build your assets while understanding that discipline is associated with saving. In order to be a fiscally responsible adult, you have to learn the good habits when you are young.
In life, anything can happen. Whether a necessary appliance breaks in your house or an unexpected health emergency arises, having a little monetary cushion can soften the blow. Also, knowing that there is a safety fund can create peace of mind.
What is the country doing?
As part of the Private Sector Development project in 2007, the Royal Government of Bhutan developed the Financial Inclusion Policy (FIP) with the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA). The FIP seeks to strengthen institutional and regulatory frameworks while increasing access to lower income populations – mainly rural areas – so that citizens can build up their financial assets. The strategy also plans to include primary and secondary school-aged children, ensuring youth under 18 have access to financial services.
Additionally, the RMA and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) partnered with the Child and Youth Finance Movement – a collection of advocates supporting inclusion – to work towards achieving the principles of the FIP. The RMA even promoted financial inclusion through workshops, seminars, and media.
During Global Money Week in 2013, the RMA along with Bhutanese banks and the World Bank spearheaded a youth financial literacy and awareness campaign in 20 dzongkhags. The campaign taught young people about banks and their services, and shared with them how banks can help youth reach their personal financial goals.
Similarly, the Bhutan National Bank hosted events at a number of schools, teaching students about banks and currency. During the event, the Bank enrolled some students in their piggy bank accounts, a service provided to youth.
Despite these efforts, youth may still doubt the benefits of saving. When faced daily with the struggles of underemployment, lack of access to banks and institutions, or leaving school early to help with family businesses, the thought of saving for the future might seem unrealistic.
Saving seems like a luxury
It can be tough to save up for the future due to immediate challenges faced daily. In rural areas, youth often leave school to help their families, providing unpaid but necessary labour. On top of that, access to banks is limited for those who don’t live in the urban areas—it often takes a day to get to the bank, making it even harder for youth to think about saving. In urban areas, youth similarly face problems of underemployment or unemployment. When immediate economic security is at risk, the thought of even tomorrow might be difficult, but starting to save is still important.
Where can you start?
As Bhutan developed, a number of banks were opened, but still many are concentrated in urban centres. However, for those wanting to open a savings account with a bank, here are two where you can start, listed in alphabetical order.
In the Bank of Bhutan all you need to open an account is citizenship identity cards of the parent or guardian, have an introduction from a current bank account holder, passport sized picture of parents or guardian, and you have to be older than 14 years.
Bhutan National Bank offers piggy bank accounts for youth between ages six and 18. With parents’ consent and with a minimum deposit of Nu 100 every month for at least one year, youth can open up an account. The applicant also must provide a passport size picture for his or herself, a passport size picture of the parent/guardian and ID card, and the applicant must be able to write his or her own name.
Like most things, the hardest part is starting. But once you do, it pays off in the end. Even if you can only save very little, start now. While access might still be limited for some or there may be other barriers to opening an account, the Royal Government, RMA, and MoF in cooperation with other advocacy agencies continue to focus on youth financial inclusion. Whether it means improving access and reducing administrative barriers, they are making an effort.
So while life can be difficult now and thinking about the future presents a challenge, just start.