Global credit crisis hurts tiny loans in South Asia

Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:07pm EST
 
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A global credit crisis that has felled large investment banks and prompted multi-billion dollar bailout packages is also hurting unlikely victims half a world away: small south Asian businesses dependent on microfinance.

Microfinance has helped poor women and farmers in Bangladesh and India set up businesses and grow crops since the 1970s.

But as credit tightens and largesse from corporations and socially-minded investors dries up, microfinance will be hit, impacting poor people who have no other access to finance.

"A liquidity crisis is the very worst-case scenario for microfinance institutions," said Roy Jacobowitz, managing director of development and communications at ACCION International in Boston, which backs microfinance institutions.

"The demise of microfinance will be devastating. It will leave people that depend on it in a very, very bad situation: they could go from a level of success back to poverty."

South Asia accounts for the most microfinance borrowers, making up more than half of global demand, according to Sa-Dhan, an association of community development finance institutions.

While ACCION hasn't seen a "catastrophic impact" on MFIs there yet, Kashf Foundation, an MFI in Pakistan, whose economy is tanking, is now seeking international lines of credit, he said.

In India and Bangladesh, microfinance has given hope to hundreds of thousands, especially women, who have built successful businesses that have changed their lives.   Continued...

 
<p>A customer deposits money at the teller counter of Yes Bank's microfinance division in Mumbai October 25, 2008. A global credit crisis that has felled large investment banks and prompted multi-billion dollar bailout packages is also hurting unlikely victims half a world away: small south Asian businesses dependent on microfinance. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe</p>