Give Them Some Credit !

Grameen-type banking in the Asia-Pacific region

One of the articles in It's About Time! (IC#37)
Originally published in Winter 1994 on page 7
Copyright (c)1994, 1996 by Context Institute

In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank has proven that the poor are the best suited to assess their own needs and to assist in overcoming their own poverty. The Grameen Bank lends small amounts of money to very poor people while small groups of borrowers meet regularly to provide support and encouragment.

The success of the Grameen Bank lending program has set development experts thinking that perhaps the model could be replicated on a regional scale large enough to make an impact on the estimated 800 million poor in Asia-Pacific.

In 1991, Grameen adherents founded Cashpor (the Asia-Pacific network for credit and savings for the hardcore poor) to help in opening Grameen-type programs throughout the region and to expand existing programs. Members include the Grameen Bank, the Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia and six other groups from East Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Except for one, all Cashpor members are low-budget, non-governmental groups.

Cashpor also receives support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP). "In the last 15 years, there has been a shift in economic planning philosophy from a top-down to a bottom-up approach," explains A. Selvanathan, coordinator of the UNDP poverty alleviation program in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cashpor’s target for the whole of Asia is 10 million people. "That means programs will have to be scaled up substantially and the human resource increased dramatically," says David Gibbons, a founding member of Cashpor.

Gibbons says loan capital is not much of a problem because the high repayment rates are attractive to commercial banks. But capacity-building funds are more difficult as banks do not loan funds to train staff.

Cashpor is being besieged by membership applications from other countries. Gibbons says the group is giving priority to the Philippines this year and also promoting the replication of Grameen in Vietnam, Thailand, and Nepal.

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