The Microfinance Promise
The article presents information about a set of financial institutions in underdeveloped countries which are striving to alleviate poverty by providing financial services to low-income households. These institutions, united under the banner of microfinance, share a commitment to serving clients that have been exclude from the formal banking sector. Almost all of the borrowers do so to finance self-employment activities, and many start by taking loans as small as $75, repaid over several months or a year. Only a few programs require borrowers to put up collateral, enabling would-be entrepreneurs with few assets to escape positions as poorly paid wage laborers or farmers. The programs point to innovations like "group-lending" contracts and new attitudes about subsidies as keys to their success. Group-lending contracts effectively make a borrower's neighbors co-signers to loans, mitigating problems created by informational asymmetries between lender and borrower. Neighbours now have incentives to monitor each other and to exclude risky borrowers from participation, promoting repayment even in the absence of collateral requirements.