A recent article on www.sramanamitra.com postulates that SKS Microfinance, which offers “several microfinance options to the poor in India for a variety of businesses from agriculture and livestock purchase to basket weaving and photography,” and has to date “provided over $550 million in microcredit,” will most likely follow Compartamos’ model and go public. According to CEO Vikram Akula and CFO S. Dilliraj, plans for growth in the upcoming years include the following:
By the end of 2008, SKS plans to add 770 new branches to its existing 696 branches to increase its members from the present 1.8 million to 4.2 million and the gross disbursement from Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 5,000 crore. Their aim is to reach 5 million families by 2010.
However, for MFIs like SKS Microfinance, the question of going public is taking place against a fractious backdrop, as debates brew furiously between microfinance gurus such as the founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, and co-founders of Compartamos, Carlos Danel and Carlos Labarthe, who have been vilified by critics as “pawnbrokers” due to a recent public offering of their former NGO.
According to a recent article from the NY Times entitled, “Microfinance’s Success Sets Off a Debate in Mexico,” at the crux of the debate lies the extent to which MFIs should contribute interest income towards profits (rather than cycling profits back into the organization for the benefit of their borrowers), and to what extent accountability to investors, rather than the borrowers themselves, impacts the fundamental premise of microfinance – poverty alleviation:
Microfinance started in the 1970s with a focus on using this breakthrough to help end poverty,” said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, a nonprofit endeavor that promotes microfinance for families earning less than $1 a day. “Now it is in great danger of being how well the investors and the microfinance institutions are doing and not about ending poverty.” He said the situation posed the danger of “mission drift.”
Even though both sides agree on the need for the sustainable infusion of capital (consider this in the following context – “Deutsche Bank estimates the global demand for microfinance loans at about $250 million, 10 times the amount that has been lent out”), the question comes down to this: at what cost? Critics argue that the model adopted by Compartamos comes at a grossly high cost for its borrowers, skewing the mission of MFIs in favour of the investors rather than the interests of the borrowers themselves, which, in the case of Compartamos, has resulted in disproportionately high interest rates (read more after the break): Continue reading
Filed under: Approaches, Finance/Credit, Issues, Microfinance, NGOs and Non-profits, Op-Ed | Tagged: commercialization, compartamos, global financial institutions, Grameen Bank, Microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, public, SKS microfinance | 5 Comments »