India may have sharply increased the number of bank accounts following Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to power. However, regrettably, India has the largest share of inactive accounts, too. A just-released World Bank survey, which provides this crucial detail alongside several others, says, “Account owners with an inactive account varies across economies, but it is especially high In India.”
Saying that the share of inactive accounts in India is 48 percent, “the highest in the world and about twice the average of 25 percent for developing economies”, the World Bank seeks to blame Modi’s policies for this. Titled “The Global Findex Database 2017: Measuring Financial Inclusion and the Fin-tech Revolution”, the survey report says, “Part of the explanation might be India’s Jan Dhan Yojana scheme, developed by the government to increase account ownership.”
Authored by Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli, Leora Klapper, Dorothy Singer, Saniya Ansar, and Jake Hess, further referring to the Jan Dhan scheme, the report states, “Launched in August 2014, the programme had brought an additional 310 million Indians into the formal banking system by March 2018”, but laments many of them “might not yet have had an opportunity to use their new account.”
As against India’s 48 percent inactive accounts, as observed over the last 12 months, the report states, “In Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka about a third of account owners have an inactive account, while in Bangladesh 21 percent do. And Pakistan has a rate of just 13 percent, though it also has a low rate of account ownership compared with other economies in the region.” It adds, “In high-income economies, only 4 percent of account owners have an inactive account.”
The World Bank’s triennial Global Findex report, as the study is identified alternatively, it is based on a survey of more than 150,000 representative individuals, claiming to provide a bird’s-eye view of patterns and regularities in data pertaining to finance and financial inclusion – such as saving behavior, use of mobile money, and preferred modes of sending and receiving remittances – in 140 economies.
Pointing towards the existence of gender gap in inactive accounts, the report says, “In developing economies female account owners are on average 5 percentage points more likely than male account owners to have an inactive account. In India, however, this gender gap is about twice as large: while 54 percent of women with an account reported having made no deposit or withdrawal in the past year, only 43 percent of men with an account did so.”
The report also points out that in developing economies “76 percent of adults with an inactive account have a mobile phone, including 66 percent in India”, though adding, “This represents an opportunity for expanding the use of accounts through digital technology.”
According to the report, “Indeed, having an account does not necessarily imply that people save at all. Globally, 42 percent of account owners reported not having saved any money in the past year. In high-income economies, 26 percent of account owners reported not having saved any money. And in Brazil, India, Russia, and Turkey — all economies where about 70 percent or more of adults have an account — about 60 percent reported not saving at all.”