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Business View: Consumers need financial know-how

Business View: Consumers need financial know-how

The financial crisis was a wake-up call for consumers in the Middle East, according to Lama Kabbani at Visa. She tells us how her company is working to help.

December 13, 2010 2:44 by

The recent and ongoing financial crisis should have acted as a wake-up call for consumers across the region.

Financial experts the world over spelt out the gravity of the crisis and likened the current global financial situation to a once-in-a-century economic phenomenon because of the effects it continues to create – job losses, foreclosures, and a still underperforming stock market.

There are, of course, plenty of cautionary lessons to draw from these events: lessons on greed, excessive lifestyles, unrealistic spending – the list could go on and on. But a deeper learning that could be drawn from this (one that has not received much attention) is that many people are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to withstand another financial blow because they lack basic financial skills.

International Savings Day, celebrated around the world on 31 October, came and went with hardly a whisper of debate as to its importance and significance, suggesting that a lot still needs to be done to get people in this part of the world on board in terms of acquiring financial skills.

Amidst mounting reports of residents and expatriate workers getting mired in financial trouble, the time is right for corporates to step in and offer their assistance through sharing expertise and empowering people with the knowledge to manage their finances and avoid such an eventuality in the future.

To this end, Visa has been promoting Global Financial Literacy programmes as part of a larger CSR agenda, and launched a regional and customized Financial Literacy programme in 2010, with the aim to  enhance the financial skills and ability of consumers in the region to cope with not only a financial crisis of this kind but everyday money management.

Managing one’s finances requires certain skills and tools, some of which are basic and simple. It is not as daunting as many people think it is, a perception which we hope to address with our work Visa also has taken an interactive approach to teaching money skills as we realize that in addition to be daunting it can also be seen as dull. As any education professional will tell you, the secret to learning is engagement.

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