There is mounting empirical evidence that the responsible provision and use of formal financial services have a positive impact on household well-being and enterprise performance. At the individual level, financial inclusion benefits rural households and small producers by facilitating the safe accumulation of assets, enabling them to leverage those assets in order to invest in human and physical capital, and supporting better risk management. The positive effects at the aggregate level are associated with better allocation of scarce resources among different activities.
Despite recent progress on different aspects of financial inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean, large gaps remain, especially in rural areas, which have been historically neglected by traditional providers of financial services. This book describes how these gaps have evolved recently in five countries —Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico— that are at different stages of designing and implementing comprehensive financial inclusion strategies. Then, on the basis of a comparative analysis of the institutional architecture available, it identifies the main barriers preventing small rural producers from accessing and making effective use of the various financial services on offer, with a view to making policy recommendations for overcoming these limitations.