What is Microcredit ?
The word “microcredit” did not exist before the seventies. Now it has become a buzz-word among the development practitioners. In the process, the word has been imputed to mean everything to everybody. No one now gets shocked if somebody uses the term “microcredit” to mean agricultural credit, or rural credit, or cooperative credit, or consumer credit, credit from the savings and loan associations, or from credit unions, or from money lenders. When someone claims microcredit has a thousand year history, or a hundred year history, nobody finds it as an exciting piece of historical information.
I think this is creating a lot of misunderstanding and confusion in the discussion about microcredit. We really don’t know who is talking about what. I am proposing that we put labels to various types of microcredit so that we can clarify at the beginning of our discussion which microcredit we are talking about. This is very important for arriving at clear conclusions, formulating right policies, designing appropriate institutions and methodologies. Instead of just saying “microcredit” we should specify which category of microcredit.
This is a very quick attempt at classification of microcredit just to make a point. The point is —every time we use the word “microcredit” we should make it clear which type (or cluster of types) of microcredit we are talking about. Otherwise we’ll continue to create endless confusion in our discussion. Needless to say that the classification I have suggested is only tentative. We can refine this to allow better understanding and better policy decisions.
Classification can also be made in the context of the issue under discussion. I am arguing that we must discontinue using the term “microcredit” or “microfinance” without identifying its category.
Microcredit data are compiled and published by different organizations. We find them useful. I propose that while publishing these data we identify the category or categories of microcredit each organization provides. Then we can prepare another set of important information ? number of poor borrowers, and their gender composition, loan disbursed, loan outstanding, balance of savings, etc. under each of these categories, countrywise, regionwise, and globally.
These sets of information will tell us which category of microcredit is serving how many poor borrowers, their gender break-up, their growth during a year or a period, loans disbursed, loans outstanding, savings, etc. The categories which are doing better, more support can go in their direction. The categories which are doing poorly may be helped to improve their performance. For policy-maters this will be enormously helpful. For analysis purpose this will make a world of difference.
I urge Microcredit Summit Campaign secretariat to present the information that they already collect on number of clients, number of the poorest among them, number of poorest clients that are women, number of clients that have crossed the poverty line—broken down for each of the categories of microcredit. This will help donors to select the categories they would like to support. This sorting out is very important for the donors, as well as the policymakers.
Grameencredit is based on the premise that the poor have skills which remain unutilised or under-utilised. It is definitely not the lack of skills which make poor people poor. Grameen believes that the poverty is not created by the poor, it is created by the institutions and policies which surround them. In order to eliminate poverty all we need to do is to make appropriate changes in the institutions and policies, and/or create new ones. Grameen believes that charity is not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue. It creates dependency and takes away individual’s initiative to break through the wall of poverty. Unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being is the answer to poverty.
Grameen brought credit to the poor, women, the illiterate, the people who pleaded that they did not know how to invest money and earn an income. Grameen created a methodology and an institution around the financial needs of the poor, and created access to credit on reasonable term enabling the poor to build on their existing skill to earn a better income in each cycle of loans.
If donors can frame category wise micro credit policies they may overcome some of their discomforts. General policy for microcredit in its wider sense, is bound to be devoid of focus and sharpness.