Myanmar embarked on a major political and economic reform since 2011, and is at its nascent stage of financial inclusion. The national poverty rate is high at 25 percent and the country ranks 149 out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index. In addition, less than 20 percent of the population has access to formal financial services, as most people use informal ways to save, borrow, and transfer money. With commercial banks focusing on serving the high-end population, financial inclusion for the under banked and the unbanked is an important task in Myanmar.
However, there are promising movements towards improved financial inclusion. With the new government, at least 30 laws have been revised to reform the country’s economy. Microfinance is given a top priority among them and the parliament passed a Microfinance Law in November 2011. Also, 177 MFIs received a license to operate from the Myanmar Microfinance Supervisory Enterprise by May 2013. The number of ATMs is also increasing rapidly, from the previous 20 to almost 400. While the current mobile penetration is low at less than 10 percent, the government targets to increase this rate to 75-80 percent by 2016, which will provide huge opportunities to accelerate financial inclusion through mobile payments.