Published on December 31, 2007
Why Has Microfinance Been a Policy Success?Bangladesh and Beyond: Why Has Microfinance Been a Policy Success? Bangladesh and Beyond David Hulme and Karen Moore ESRC Seminar - ‘Statecraft in the South: Public Policy Success in Developing Countries’, University of Manchester, May 20, 2005. Institute for Development Policy and Management School of Environment and Development University of Manchester Introduction: Introduction In the public eye, and according to many analysts, microfinance has been successful. Globally, at the end of 2003, 2,931 microfinance institutions (MFIs) reported reaching over 80 million clients. About 55 million were among the poorest when they took their first loan. Rural credit and small farmer credit – a history of dramatic policy failure. Development policy in this account is not seen as something solely about what governments do. Outline : Outline A rapid history of the development of the microfinance industry in Bangladesh The evidence that microfinance has been a success in Bangladesh The reasons why microfinance is believed to have performed well The political economy of microfinance in Bangladesh General lessons about the processes that lead to successful development policy What is microfinance?: What is microfinance? Microcredit – provision of small-scale loans to the poor – and more recently … Microfinance – provision of a range of the poor’s financial service needs, including credit, savings, insurance, remittance management. MFIs usually NGOs, but also government bodies, banks etc. Different types and amounts of non-financial inputs – e.g. skills training, marketing, organisational support, health and education services Matrix of microfinance (and related) institutions in Bangladesh, 2005: Matrix of microfinance (and related) institutions in Bangladesh, 2005 A brief history of microfinance and MFIs in Bangladesh experiment, expansion, innovation: A brief history of microfinance and MFIs in Bangladesh experiment, expansion, innovation 1970s: rise of NGOs (BRAC, Proshika, ASA) post-war; Grameen Bank experiment 1980s, early 1990s: consolidation of Grameen model and expansion; establishment of PKSF mid 1990s-on: innovation in established (e.g. Grameen II) and new MFIs (BURO, Tangail; SafeSave) Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – the numbers: Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – the numbers About 1,500 MFIs currently operate, with another 500 soon to join; 90% are clients of 4 big MFIs. Most MFIs consistently report repayment rates of 98%+. Microfinance reaches ‘significant population of otherwise disadvantaged people’ (low/unstable incomes, little/no land/assets, low social status, few/no alternative sources of financial services): 20+ million active clients ( 86% women) (under)estimate: 15% are members of more than 1 MFI (over)estimate: 75% of clients are poor between 10 and 14 million poor households have access to microfinance Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – economic and social effects: Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – economic and social effects Evidence is mixed, but on balance suggests ‘tangible enhancement of their capabilities’, through asset enhancement and positive effects on socio-economic environment: On average, positive economic effect on clients (e.g. building non-land assets, consumption smoothing), though effects are often small, and all may not benefit equally On average, microfinance and associated MFI activity have had positive social effects (e.g. ‘women’s empowerment’; education; health; fertility) Studies suggest significant village-level spillover effects Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – national level effects: Achievements of microfinance in Bangladesh – national level effects National pride - Bangladesh now renowned for ‘invention’ of microfinance; commitment and insight of Yunus+; vast cadre of competent, honest field staff … not just poverty, floods etc.; now exports model of microfinance globally (including ‘developed’ countries) Employment creation - at least 50,000 credit officer-type positions across the country whose households derive their livelihood from provision of microfinance Next generation of social entrepreneurs “We have received a lot of things from the international community, but we given the model of microcredit to the world”. - Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia Slide10: Microfinance comes of age as public policy in Bangladesh – PKSF PKSF is a parastatal that loans donor/other funds to partner organisations (POs) for on-lending as microcredit. Largest, most successful apex org. globally. 15% of total Bangladeshi microfinance industry and 24% of on-loanable funds available to NGO-MFIs from PKSF In 2003-4, PKSF provided over US$58 million in loanable funds to 206 POs: 3 ‘big’ MFIs (ASA, BRAC, Proshika); 195 small/medium MFIs; 8 ‘pre-PKSF’ organisations. Success of PKSF based upon: Large, stable microfinance industry preceded its establishment Strong and independent decision-making that management able to pursue, attributed to prominence and commitment of board members Critiques of microfinance : Critiques of microfinance Recognised trade-offs between different goals: e.g. alleviation of economic poverty; empowerment; provision of broad range of financial, other services to diverse clientele; financial self-sufficiency of MFIs Neo-Marxist discrediting of microfinance less common, but arguments around radical social movements remain – e.g. Nijera Kori We know far less about defaulters and drop outs – does microfinance = microdebt? High costs to donors and to poor people – alternative means of spending donor money? Also, MFI failures do exist, even in Bangladesh – e.g. GSS, Federal Savings Explaining success: Explaining success Policy innovation, design, specification Innovations in targeting; screening out ‘bad’ (non-poor and non-viable) clients; ensuring repayment; reducing costs; administrative efficiency Central role of public and non-governmental organisations in transforming private sector models Implementation Scaling up by the Grameen Bank Adoption, adaptation of Grameen model by other MFIs MFI innovation outside of the Grameen Model Explaining success: Explaining success Learning and adaptation Especially from mid-1990s Favourable Environment high population density and basic infrastructure low service delivery costs regular supply of new university graduates with few other employment opportunities levels of law and order mean that fieldworkers and bank branches are relatively secure foreign aid donors with large budgets available to support viable projects Explaining success: Explaining success Great Man, Great Men … exceptional commitment, ability and performance of leaders Great Little Women Millions of ‘little’ women (in terms of social status as well as height and BMI) have shown extraordinary agency and capacity to use microfinance to improve the well-being of their households and repay their loans. However, in many ways, success of microfinance in Bangladesh is based on poor women’s agency (to empower themselves and care for their households) and poor women’s lack of agency (not ‘access for women’, but ‘women are accessible’). Political Economy of Success: Political Economy of Success Post-war burst of human agency, energy, creativity created capital (knowledge and institutional capacities), upon which the country continues to draw today. With special reference to the Grameen Bank: Skilful management of socio-political position, so that now both embedded in Bangladeshi society and able to leverage changes in society Internationally, foundational in creating global image of microfinance as a policy appealing to ideologies both right of centre (markets, private sector, breaking dependency) and left of centre (agency, participation, empowerment) Effective management of opposition from Islamic groups, leftist media, Grameen Bank staff Beyond Bangladesh: Beyond Bangladesh International face of microfinance remains largely Bangladeshi, specifically Grameen Bank Policy transfer through: Practitioner seminars 46 direct Grameen Bank ‘replicates’ operating in 20 countries, including US; over 100 Grameen Trust ‘partners’ in 26 countries, with a client base of over 1.8 million Leadership roles in international microfinance bodies – Microcredit Summit (Yunus), Microstart (ASA) Research and publication Conclusion: Why a success? Visionary leadership Supportive policy environment Effective donors Physical and social environment PKSF Management within the political economy Institutional process - learning An overarching explanation? Uphoff’s ‘social energy’ Agency of the poor Conclusion Microfinance – a policy success in Bangladesh and probably beyond, in terms of public action and public policy. We have revised our opinions!