MicroSave India Focus Note 58                     The Andhra Pradesh Crisis: What Should The Government Do?               ...
reduce the scope for MFIs to leverage PSL debt to attract              Recognise, And Hold Accountable, An Industryaggress...
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AP Crisis - What Should The Government Do


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AP Crisis - What Should The Government Do

  1. 1. MicroSave India Focus Note 58 The Andhra Pradesh Crisis: What Should The Government Do? Manoj K. Sharma and Graham A.N. Wright December 2010So What Should the Government Do? Providing artisans and farmers access to appropriate, andRecognise And Build On The Success: The cost-effective credit products should be made eligible formicrofinance industry in India has grown by leaps and priority sector lending. The challenge, of course, will bebounds and has managed to achieve in a decade what to have appropriate audit/end-use verification measures inbanks could not do in more than sixty years since India’s place. In terms of recovery practices, strong arm tacticsindependence. Outreach has expanded rapidly and large cannot be tolerated; however, action should be takenparts of the country have been provided with financial against errant microfinance institutions, and not againstaccess, albeit only for credit and not for a suite of the industry as a collective. An Ombudsman-likefinancial products. The banking industry has supported institution should be created for MFI clients to be able tothe growth of the microfinance sector in India, and its provide a forum for redress. Another means of fixingready provision of the funds needed for the growth of the responsibility on banks extending credit to MFIs could besector have enabled the horizontal expansion.1 In a to adopt an area approach in bank lending to MFIs. Bankscountry still looking for greater penetration of financial should extend credit to MFIs on the basis of portfolio of aservices, the definition of microfinance as provision of certain number of branches. These banks could be heldcredit of `50,000 or less should be maintained and maybe accountable for errors of omission and commission ateven enhanced. It is well known that banks find it very these branches of MFIs. Such an approach woulddifficult to extend credit for enterprises in the informal encourage banks to take greater responsibility andsector with credit needs of `200,000 to `500,000. exercise greater care in the operations of MFIs.Microfinance institutions should be encouraged to fill thisgap while maintaining levels of transparency and realistic The RBI has the option of regulating the microfinancepricing. Alternate channels of credit provision have to be sector comprised of Non Banking Finance Companies –developed for the informal sector, which otherwise has MFIs (NBFC-MFIs) on its own, or through banks, or asuffered apathy from the formal banking industry. combination of the two. RBI should probably enhance its own capacity to regulate and supervise NBFC-MFIs, andEnforce Transparency: Transparency is a pre-requisite also entrust greater responsibility to banks extendingin any business and more so in the microfinance sector as credit to MFIs. Greater supervision and care by banksit deals with millions of poor. The Reserve Bank of India could have ensured a healthier growth of the sector, early(RBI), which has till recently fought shy of closely adoption of transparency measures and possibly reductionregulating the sector, should take up the challenge. in interest rates to the end clients. However, in pursuit ofReporting standards should be developed for priority sector targets, banks turned a blind eye to themicrofinance institutions and to the extent possible, happenings in the sector and steadfastly refused tocommon reporting formats and measures for sharing of influence interest rates or the extraordinary growth rates.information should be adopted across banks. For too long The consequences of this have been detailed in IFN 55it has been speculated that some MFIs are benefitting “The Andhra Pradesh Crisis: Three Dress Rehearsals …from reporting arbitrage, leading to unhealthy practices in and then the Full Drama”.the industry. A growing number of MFIs are examiningoptions to cap the returns on equity that they make, and Use Priority Sector Lending Requirements To Managecommitting to reducing interest rates, or channelling any Growth And Encourage Operations In Remote Areas:excess returns above the target cap into their social Managing the explosive growth of MFIs could play anprogrammes. This too could play an important role in important role in ensuring that these organisationsmanaging the nature of investors attracted, purely-profit- develop in a client-responsive and sustainable manner –focused decisions in board meetings, and encouraging a rather than focusing exclusively on sales and grosstruly double bottom-line approach to providing financial numbers. Priority sector lending (PSL) requirementsservices to the poor. played a key role in encouraging the unsustainable growth rates of MFIs.2 They should be amended toRegulate For Responsible Lending: Group lending in its temper the incentives for rapid growth and to encouragepresent form is a methodology that can only go so far. competition. One such approach might be to limit theMFIs should be encouraged to provide a wider range of amount of lending per MFI that can be counted towardsproducts, not only limited to credit. Even in terms of PSL requirements as has been done in the case of directcredit, a wider range of products should be encouraged. agriculture credit eligible for PSL. This would both________________________________1 See MicroSave India Focus Note 43 “Commercialisation of Microfinance in India: Is it all Bad?”2 See MicroSave India Focus Note 42 “Microfinance In India: Built On Sales Targets or Loyal Clients?” MicroSave - Offices in: India, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines and Uganda Email: Info@MicroSave.net Website: www.MicroSave.org
  2. 2. reduce the scope for MFIs to leverage PSL debt to attract Recognise, And Hold Accountable, An Industryaggressive private sector equity, and encourage banks to Association: The microfinance industry collectives havelend to a wider range of MFIs, thus enhancing also been struggling to maintain focus in a sectorcompetition amongst them. Furthermore, as in the case of experiencing such rapid growth. Industry associations gobanks, microfinance institutions should be encouraged to into overdrive at the time of crisis, but lose their pre-set-up operations in remote areas. Access to priority eminence once the crisis is resolved. A clearer and moresector funds should be contingent on MFIs’ presence in proactive role has to emerge for industry associations – orremote unbanked areas, transparency and provision of a probably an industry association, singular. Coming upwide range of financial services - not only credit. with codes of conduct, which remain voluntary, on paper and not adhered to by members in practice is clearlyDevelop Union Level Legislation: The applicability of inadequate. The microfinance sector, (and the industrymoney lending legislation of various state governments association collectives), has long known the black sheepand efforts to regulate the sector through a plethora of within its fold – the question that arises is why werestate level legislations will harm the industry, and the efforts not made to expel such players? The onus of suchpoor in the country. Different state level legislations action lies on the entire sector. A few MFIs have in thewould lead to the promotion of state-specific entities as past adopted grossly unfair and unacceptable practices,pan-India institutions will find it difficult to navigate which have been topics for gossip, but on which nothrough myriad legislations. This will ensure smaller collective action has been taken. This will have to changeinstitutions and will preclude the options of economies of or else, the entire sector will have to face thescale in the provision of credit and other financial consequences - as has been demonstrated by the turn ofservices to the poor. Hence MFIs, in all regulatory events in the last couple of months. The RBI needs toformats, should be exempt from state-specific money recognise and hold accountable a credible, well resourcedlending and other legislation. industry association.Interest Rate Caps: Similarly, attempts to cap interest Be Open And Honest About The SHG Movement: Therates in microfinance will be detrimental for the poor and events of the recent past should not encourage the illusionwill set back the agenda for financial inclusion by that the SHG model is the way, truth and light fordecades. Clients in remote areas, in difficult terrains such financial inclusion in India. People involved in the sectoras sparsely populated hills and in high cost urban settings admit that the SHG model is struggling, and will crumblewill be denied access to quality financial services. If the unless rapid efforts are made to reengineer it.4 Too muchregulator is concerned about super-profits being made by has been made out of the SHG model, and too manysome of the MFIs, it should look at capping RoE rather government programmes are made to ride on SHGs. It isthan capping interest rates. A case against this, and the time for an open and honest review of SHGs - analysingpossible loopholes that such a measure will present has why MFIs had the space to lend to SHG members whenbeen earlier elucidated in MicroSave’s IFN 56 “The MFIs were charging 24% (or more) and SHGs wereAndhra Pradesh Crisis: So What Next?”. The effects of charging just 3%. NABARD, as the custodian of SHGs,interest rates on financial inclusion have been well should conduct rigorous analysis of the model and arrivedocumented, and are almost universally detrimental to the at ways and means of strengthening it. Givenwell-being of the poor.3 NABARD’s deep involvement and ownership of SHGs, it can be safely said that the staff and officers of NABARDEnhance and Encourage Banking Correspondence: are aware of the problems and challenges, and areRBI should also facilitate movement from microcredit to capable of addressing them. Indeed the SERP programmefull and comprehensive financial inclusion through the in Andhra Pradesh has already started sincere efforts tobanking correspondent model. As of now, attempts are do this.being made to enhance access to savings through e/m-banking channels. Such a model will continue to struggle Conclusion: The Deputy Governor of the RBI, Mr. Subirto break-even unless a more comprehensive range of Gokarn noted on December 8th, 2010 in Kolkota that,financial services are made available. Microfinance “MFIs constitute an important component of our financialinstitutions have developed expertise in low-ticket size inclusion strategy. The last mile that MFIs are able togroup lending, this can be very easily expanded to cover cover is not something that the formal financial sector istrade-specific individual loans, savings, remittance and able to. They remain an important part of the system”.insurance. Such an approach by MFIs, at least for some We hope that this foresight and forward thinking isproducts, acting as agents of banks, will leverage the maintained by RBI, and indeed the whole sector … andoutreach and networks already created and will also be a the poor of this country do not have to pay for thestep forward in bringing down costs. aggression of a handful of players or political expediency.________________________________3 See for example CGAP Occasional Paper “Interest Rate Ceilings and Microfinance: The Story So Far”4 See MicroSave India Focus Notes 15 “Delinquency in Self Help Groups”, 19 “SHGs Should Balance or Break” and 44 “Savings Mobilisationin SHGs: Opportunities and Challenges” MicroSave - Offices in: India, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines and Uganda Email: Info@MicroSave.net Website: www.MicroSave.org