What's Wrong with Microfinance?

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Thomas W. Dichter, Malcolm Harper
Practical Action Publishing, 2007 - Business & Economics - 271 pages
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Microfinance has been a long-lived development fashion. It has been around since the 1980s, and in 2005 it enjoyed the accolade of a UN international year. The reasons for this success are obvious. It reaches millions of poor people, particularly women, and it can be profitable both for some of its customers and also for the institutions which finance it.

There are, however, some important problems, discussed in this book. Some arise from exaggerated expectations, some from bad design and mismanagement and some from erroneous basic policies. Is microfinance really a step on the road to economic growth, or is it a short-term palliative, keeping poor people poor? Can an MFI really work if it embraces the "double bottom line" of both profit and social good? Is microfinance, especially credit, harmful, often landing the vulnerable poor in debt? Should microfinance be reaching the poorest? The chapters, written by well-known experts in the field, are grouped around the categories: clients, institutions, and expectations.

The authors sound a timely warning to governments, bankers, donors and the general public. The intention is not to bring microfinance to a stop, but to make people pause, reassess their expectations and re-think some policies. Microfinance is never a panacea and may sometimes be actively damaging to its intended customers.

Contributors: Irina Aliaga; Hugh Allen (Boulder Microfinance Training Program and Southern New Hampshire University's Microenterprise Development Institute); Milford Bateman; Thomas Dichter; David Ellerman (University of California/Riverside); Dr. Prabhu; Malcolm Harper; Mary Houghton and Ronald Grzywinski (both ShoreBank Corporation); David Hulme; Susan Johnson; Vijay Mahajan; Imran Matin and Munshi Sulaiman; M. A. Saleque; Richard L. Meyer (Ohio State University); Paul Mosley; Dr J.D. Von Pischke (Frontier Finance International, Washington, DC); S. M. Rahman; Paul Rippey; Namrata Sharma; Frances Sinha; Kim Wilson (Fletcher School, Tufts University).

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About the author (2007)

Thomas Dichter has spent half of his 40-year career in international development working in microfinance on three continents. From 1994-1998 he was senior consultant to the World Bank's 'Sustainable Banking With the Poor' project. He is author of Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed (2003).

Malcolm Harper is an emeritus professor of Cranfield University; he is an independent researcher, writer and teacher who works mainly in India. He has published on enterprise development and microfinance. He was Chairman of Basix Finance from 1996 until 2006, and is Chairman of M-CRIL, the microfinance credit rating agency and business development, and author of numerous books and articles. He is the co-editor of What's Wrong with Microfinance? (Practical Action, 2007).

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