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Keynote address by Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, entitled “The importance of financial literary”, at the award ceremony of the “GREEK ECONOMICS OLYMPIAD 2020-2021”

12/07/2021 - Speeches

Ladies and gentlemen, dear students,

I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here with you at this award ceremony of the Economics Olympiad 2020-21, organised for the first time in Greece this year.

I would like to congratulate all the students that took part in this Olympiad, the teachers that provided information and raised awareness of the competition and, of course, the organisers for their enthusiasm and commitment. I should also extend my warmest congratulations to the students who excelled all over Greece and who are being awarded a prize today for their brilliant performance. I wish you all to always set your goals high and to conquer the top.

As part of its social responsibility, the Bank of Greece assists efforts to promote learning and education, and supports actions that enhance financial literacy, recognising its positive impact on the economy as a whole and on financial stability. 

More specifically, in the context of these actions, the Museum of the Bank of Greece, given its educational role, offers guided tours tailored to the needs of the vast majority of its visitors (upper secondary school and university students) and hosts educational events focused on specific economic topics, such as inflation, electronic payments and the euro, or designed to promote financial literacy to the public. 

In particular, in June 2019, the Museum of the Bank of Greece inaugurated the temporary exhibition “e-Payments: a roadmap”, which was accompanied by the museum educational programme “Without cash, how?”, approved by the Institute of Educational Policy of the Ministry of Education. The goal of this action is to provide financial education to senior students of lower secondary school and to upper secondary school students.

Moreover, the Centre for Culture, Research and Documentation of the Bank of Greece plans to publish in 2021 two books which concern and promote the financial education of students.

The first one is an illustrated dictionary of financial terms for children up to 12 years old, written by Nikolaos Philippas, Professor of Finance at the University of Piraeus. It will comprise approximately 100 illustrated entries explaining in an understandable way basic concepts about the functioning of the economy. 

The second is a graphic novel entitled “The great transformation: Climate – Can we beat the heat?”, which is addressed to upper secondary school students and is a Greek translation of the original German edition, published with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

In addition, the Bank of Greece cooperates with and supports institutions that are engaged in matters of financial literacy, hosting their events in its premises and publishing books; also, Senior Management members participate with speeches. More specifically, it has hosted workshops of the Hellenic Institute of Financial Literacy and of Action Aid, as well as the student initiative “Get Ιnvolved”, which was launched in 2017 with the aim of fostering financial literacy among the youth that participate in its actions. Most importantly, in 2021 the Bank supported the participation of the students of “Get Involved” in the public debate initiative of the European Central Bank (“Listening events”), through an online event organised by the Bank.

Finally, the Bank supported the “International Economics Olympiad”, which was organised by the Center for Liberal Studies – Markos Dragoumis (KEFiM) in collaboration with the Czech Institute of Economic Education (INEV), the body responsible for the international section of the competition.

At this point, I would like to note that several central banks have assumed an important role in the development of a national strategy for financial education, for example in Cyprus, Spain, France, England, Portugal and Finland, suggesting actions and monitoring the strategy implementation.


Having said that, I would like to greet heartily the Economics Olympiad that is hosted in our country.

There is no doubt that the youth are a valuable asset for both the present and the future of our country, and that they can act as catalysts for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, however, young people are faced nowadays with huge challenges in a rapidly changing economic landscape, where the responsibility of financial planning for their future falls increasingly upon them. At this point, let me refer to the objective of the competition. The Economics Olympiad aims to develop the economic thinking and training of schoolchildren all over Greece. Economics, as a scientific field, explores ways to improve a person’s life and society’s welfare. Besides, as the British economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) astutely pointed out, economics is the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life. This means that economics affect, essentially, all aspects of our social life.

So, in today's event, I am given the opportunity to talk about an issue which I consider to be very important: financial literacy. In modern societies, especially after the global financial crisis that shook the world, but also during the current COVID-19 pandemic, for which governments are still trying to develop an exit strategy with the least possible losses, financial literacy is an issue of ever-growing importance. Increasing its level – in combination with enhancing consumers’ digital competence, so that they are in a position to handle matters that arise in the context of the digitalisation of the financial sector – has been acknowledged as a top priority for policymakers all over the world.

According to the OECD’s definition, financial literacy is a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial well-being.[1] Lack of the aforementioned factors, i.e. financial illiteracy, can prevent individuals from properly managing their finances, with ultimately negative consequences such as excessive borrowing and financial exclusion. According to literature, financially literate individuals are less vulnerable to exploitation or fraud, less prone to excessive borrowing and more effective in pension planning; they participate more frequently in financial markets and make more extensive use of financial technology. Financial literacy is a key driver of financial inclusion, which in turn can contribute to lower income inequality and stronger financial stability.

However, several studies show that many people do not have adequate basic economic knowledge for e.g. calculating or understanding interest rates, or comprehending inflation and risk diversification. OECD survey results show that less than half of the adult population in G20 countries are financially literate, with the problem of financial illiteracy being much more marked in women and young people, as demonstrated by other relevant studies worldwide.[2] According to the Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey, in 2014, on average 52% of adults in the European Union (EU) were financially literate, with the highest rates being recorded in Northern Europe and the lowest in the South. In Greece, the corresponding figure was 45%.

At this point, let me make some remarks about young people. People in this age group have to make financial decisions early in their lives with significant consequences for the coming decades and with an impact on their future well-being, wealth and income. As a matter of fact, in the modern digital era, in which technology is ubiquitous in the economy and society, citizens from a very young age make important financial decisions, thus being at higher risk of becoming victims of financial fraud. The young generation is therefore confronted with a constantly increasing need to acquire financial education that will allow it to fully understand and reap the benefits from the application of financial technology. It is the generation that has familiarised itself with the new technologies and social networking, and it represents the majority of financial technology users in terms of both demand and supply. However, despite the new opportunities offered by increased access to digital financial services and innovative financial products and applications, this also entails risks, if it is not combined with the appropriate levels of financial education. In addition to familiarisation with the new digital technologies, it is necessary to ensure adequate training in financial matters. In other words, the effective use of digital financial products and services requires increased levels of digital financial literacy in our times.

At the same time, it is widely accepted that the way in which individuals deal with additional financial pressure during a crisis depends on how well they understand economic concepts such as debt accumulation, risk diversification, etc. Financial education plays an important role in helping people cope with bad times, so that they are also able to weather macroeconomic shocks. Low levels of financial literacy among the population could exacerbate the risk to which certain groups are exposed during an economic shock.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on household incomes and savings and increased uncertainty make financial literacy even more important for strengthening the financial resilience of households and businesses. It should be mentioned that, according to the Survey on Income and Living Conditions of Households, even before the pandemic, more than 30% of households, on average, in the EU could not meet unexpected expenses. It is equally worrying that, according to the results of the Eurofound survey carried out in July 2020, 36.1% of households in Greece replied that they possessed no savings to fall back on in case of loss of income, while only 8.1% replied that they had savings allowing them to maintain the same standard of living for more than one year in case of loss of income.

To conclude, improving people’s financial knowledge has become a long-term policy priority for many countries, with central banks and supervisors playing an important role in this direction. Financial literacy is becoming increasingly important for economic efficiency and the successful conduct of economic policy, and thus financial well-being. First, citizens who understand how the economy works are better placed to make optimal choices. Second, they are also more likely to support prudent policies, while strengthening financial education also ensures the sustainability of public finances and enhances the efficiency and flexibility of markets. Overall, the promotion of digital financial literacy can empower individuals and equip them with the necessary financial knowledge and skills, including digital skills; encourage them to seek financial advice from responsible sources; prevent irrational behaviour; and strengthen their capacity to assess economic conditions prudently.

This is because, among other things, it is vital, especially for the most vulnerable groups, such as young families and low-income households, to understand the consequences of debt. Moreover, the additional strain from population ageing on pension systems requires higher levels of financial literacy. People live longer, but save proportionally less, with Greece being among the worst performers in the EU in terms of saving for old age. Lack of proper pension and savings planning means that people are potentially unprepared for the economic challenges of ageing. Strengthening financial education is key to the EU’s inclusive growth strategy.

Dear children,

I would like to congratulate you on the interest you have shown and your performance in the Economics Olympiad. Apart from this competition, in your everyday lives, your school years, your studies later on and your professional career, I prompt you to evolve, to try new experiences, to be creative and open-minded. Learning expands your horizons and your viewpoint. It opens your world, it boosts your creativity and spirit of innovation, leading eventually to a fuller life.

Congratulations and good luck with your participation in the International Economics Olympiad.


[1] Bank of Greece, Monetary Policy Report 2020-2021, June 2021, Box VI.2 “Digital financial inclusion”.

[2] Andreou, P.C. and S. Anyfantaki (2020), “Financial literacy and its influence on internet banking behavior”, European Management Journal.

[2] Demirgüç-Kunt, A., L.F. Klapper and G.A. Panos (2016), “Saving for Old Age”, World Bank Group WP7693.

[3] European Banking Authority (2020), EBA Report on Financial Education 2019/20.

[3] Lusardi, A. and O. Mitchell (2007), “Baby boomer retirement security: the roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth”, Journal of Monetary Economics, 54(1), 205-24.

[4] Lusardi, A. and O.S Mitchell (2013), “The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence”, Journal of Economic Literature, 52(1), 5-44.

[5] Lusardi, A. and P. Tufano (2015), “Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness”, Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.

[6] Morgan, P.J. and V. Pontines (2014), “Financial Stability and Financial Inclusion”, ADBI WP 488.

[7] van Rooij, M.C.J., A. Lusardi and R.J.M. Alessie (2011), “Financial literacy and stock market participation”, Journal of Financial Economics, 101(2), 449-72.


[1] OECD/INFE (2012), High-level Principles on National Strategies for Financial Education, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[2] OECD (2017), G20/OECD INFE report on adult financial literacy in G20 countries, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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