Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't make profits from micro finance - says Yunus

In the 11th annual Microcredit Summit Campaign conference being held in Bali, Indonesia, Grameen Bank's Muhammad Yunus has said:
If you are making profits you are moving into the same mental mind-set as loan sharks.
However, the trend is going to be different. More private equity players and big banks are getting into the micro credit field, hoping to earn significant profits. I had already linked to The Economist article on CompartamosBanco, a micro credit institution which became an aggressive for-profit company a while back, raising hackles across. - a type set up for India

I found out about, an operation along the lines of, in bringing together microcredit lenders and borrowers. It also offers the lender an effective rate of 3.5% on the investment (the repayment period is unclear), while charging the borrower 8.5% (the spread of 5% is decent for the people involved in between, as we all know how high the cost of servicing is in this sector).

I wish them a great progress.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Micro-finance growing the fastest in the East (India)

Chennai-based Centre for Micro Finance (CMF) has said the micro-finance sector is growing at the rate of 82% in the eastern part of the country, the fastest rate in India.
Also, there exist a great disparity in the penetration of micro finance within the region, with Orissa and West Bengal witnessing high levels of penetration, and states like Assam, Bihar and and Jharkhand lagging behind.
A proposed Micro Finance Bill 2007 is yet to be passed by the Parliament as there is no consensus on several issues. Most notable being on limiting the interest rate charged by the micro-finance companies. The article also talks about this.
Speaking at a seminar on micro credit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Abhijit Banerjee of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said "Putting a ceiling on the rate of interest charged by the micro finance institution would not be a good idea, more so on this juncture when the economy is passing through a high inflationary regime."

According to him, "One should look for a couple of years before putting a cap on the lending rates, with the increase in competition the interest rate might even moderate. Moreover, in the current inflationary situation, it would become all the more difficult for these MFIs to sustain".


Generally a borrower repaid the loan weekly and so for a annual loan of Rs 5000, a collection officer had to visit 52 times, pushing up the transaction cost per loan.

"Hence the interest rate is higher," he explained.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pragati Gramodyog Sansthan (PGS) - helping bonded labourers

An article on slavery talks about the brave work done by an Uttar Pradesh based entity helping former bonded labourers benefiting from micro-credit.
Gonoo lives in Lohagara Dhal, a forgotten corner of Uttar Pradesh, a north Indian state that contains 8 percent of the world’s poor. I met him one evening in December 2005 as he walked with two dozen other laborers in tattered and filthy clothes. Behind them was the quarry. In that pit, Gonoo, a member of the historically outcast Kol tribe, worked with his family 14 hours a day. His tools were a hammer and a pike.


Every single man, woman, and child in Lohagara Dhal is a slave. But, in theory at least, Garg neither bought nor owns them. They are working off debts, which, for many, started at less than $10. But interest accrues at over 100 percent annually here. Most of the debts span at least two generations, though they have no legal standing under modern Indian law. They are a fiction that Garg constructs through fraud and maintains through violence. The seed of Gonoo’s slavery, for instance, was a loan of 62 cents. In 1958 his grandfather borrowed that amount from the owner of a farm where he worked. Three generations and three slave masters later, Gonoo’s family remains in bondage.


Among the Kol of Uttar Pradesh, for instance, an organization called Pragati Gramodyog Sansthan (PGS)—the Progressive Institute for Village Enterprises—has helped hundreds of families break the grip of the quarry contractors. Working methodically since 1985, PGS organizers slowly built up confidence among slaves. With PGS’s help, the Kol formed microcredit unions and won leases to quarries so that they could keep the proceeds of their labor. Some bought property, a cow or a goat, for the first time in their lives, and their incomes, which had been nil, multiplied quickly. PGS set up primary schools and dug wells. Villages that for generations had known nothing but slavery began to become free.
A moving story. A great example that micro-credit can go a long way in changing the fortunes of thousands of people.