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Financial inclusion 02 Mar 2016

The award from the BBVA Foundation goes to the economist Martin Ravallion, a pioneer in measuring poverty

1 dollar a day is the threshold of extreme poverty, below which it is impossible for a person to survive. This was one of the main conclusions of the Australian economist, Martin Ravallion, who has won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Development Cooperation category.

The work of Ravallion marks a before-and-after in the way we talk about poverty, and has meant that we no longer discuss this vast problem in abstract or subjective terms. “What can’t be measured can’t be improved”, said the awards jury, echoing the phrase of Lord Kelvin.

The work of this Australian economist, whose lines of research have their origins in his modest upbringing, has also been singled out for its analysis of the relationship between inequality and poverty. From observations in different countries Ravallion has succeeded in proving that growth is a necessary condition for reducing poverty. However, he says that in a context of high inequality, we need complementary action in the form of social policies. His contribution in this case is highlighted in the jury’s decision: “Ravallion’s work has allowed the design of more clearly targeted polices to combat extreme poverty or even eliminate it completely”.

The Millennium Goals and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals have used his indicators as a support for setting one of the goals –namely the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030. Ravallion is optimistic about this challenge: “We’re now on the right road”. However, he warns of the threats that could prevent the achievement of veing achieved : climate change, global recession and the increase in inequality.

Financial Inclusion

In recent years, BBVA has spearheaded several initiatives for financial inclusion to help mitigate inequality. One of the most important was the creation in 2007 of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, which aims to promote the sustainable economic and social development of underprivileged people in society through productive financing. Currently this foundation serves 1.7 million people in Latin America, and has an impact on the lives of over 6.9 million people.

In addition, in countries like Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, BBVA seeks to encourage people to save, increase their banking culture, and help them manage their personal finances. In order to achieve this they offer low-cost accounts, foster the use of channels other than branch offices and innovate on technology platforms. In the United States, BBVA Compass is participating in the Bank On, initiative, which aims to improve access to financial services for disadvantaged people. And in Spain, BBVA supports immigrants in their financial integration to help them get ahead and meet their needs.

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