Read the following passage based on an Interview to answer the given
questions based on it. Certain words are printed in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
A spate of farmer suicides linked to harassment by recovery agents employed by micro finance institutions (MFLs) in Andhra Pradesh spurned the state government to bring in regulation to protect consumer interests. But, while the Bill has brought into sharp focus the need for consumer protection, it tries to micro-manage MFI operations and in the process it could scuttle some of the crucial bene ts that MFIs bring to farmers, says the author of Micro nance India, State Of The Sec-for Report 2010. In an interview he points out that prudent regulation can ensure the original goal of the MFIs - social uplift of the poor. Do you feel the AP Bill to regulate Mils is well thought out? Does it ensure fairness to the borrowers and the long-term health of the sector?
The AP Bill has brought into sharp focus the need for customer protection in four critical areas. First is pricing. Second is lender's liability whether the lender can give too much loan without assessing the customer's ability to pay. Third is the structure of loan repayment - whether you can ask money on a weekly basis from people who don't produce weekly incomes. Fourth is the practices that attend to how you deal with defaults. But the Act should have looked at the positive bene ts that institutions could bring in, and where they need to be regulated in the interests of the customers. It should have brought only those features in. Say, you want the recovery practices to be consistent with what the customers can really manage. If the customer is aggrieved and complains that somebody is harassing him, then those complaints should be investigated by the District Rural Development Authority.
Instead what the Bill says is that MF1s cannot go to the customer's premises to ask for recovery and that all transactions will be done in the Panchayat of ce. With great dif culty, MFIs brought services to the door of people. It is such a relief for the customers not to be spending time out going to banks or Panchayat of ces, which could be 10 km away in some cases. A facility which has brought some relief to people is being shut. Moreover, you are practically telling the MFI where it should do business and how it should do it.
Social responsibilities were inbuilt when the MIrls were rst conceived. If kills go for profit with loose regulations, how are they different from moneylenders?
Even among moneylenders there are very good people who take care of the customer's circumstance, and there are really bad ones. A large number of the MF1s are good and there are some who are coercive because of the kind of prices and processes they have adopted. But Moneylenders never got this organised. They did not have such a large footprint. An MFI brought in organisation, it mobilized the equity, it brought in commercial funding. It invested in systems. It appointed a large number of people. But some of them exacted a much higher price than they should have. They wanted to break even very fast and greed did take over in some cases.
Are the for-profit 'Ms the only ones harassing people for recoveries?
Some not-for-profit out ts have also adopted the same kind of recovery methods. That may be because you have to show that you are very ef cient in your recovery methods and that your portfolio is of a very high quality if you want to get commercial funding from a bank.
In fact, among for-profits there are many who have sensible recovery practices. Some have fortnightly recovery, some have monthly recovery. So we have differing practices. We just describe a few dominant ones and assume every for-profit MFI operates like that.
How can you introduce regulations to ensure social upliftment in a sector that is moving towards for-profit models? I am not really concerned whether someone wants to make a profit or not The bottom-line for me is customer protection. The rst area is fair practices. Are you telling your customers how the loan is structured ? Are you being transparent about your performance? There should also be a lender's liability attached to what you do. Suppose you lend excessively to a customer without assessing their ability to service the loan, you have to take the hit.
Then there's the question of limiting returns. You can say that an MFI cannot have a return on assets more than X, a return on equity of more than Y. Then suppose there is a privately promoted MFI, there should be a regulation to ensure the MFI cannot access equity markets till a certain amount of time. MFIs went to markets perhaps because of the need to grow too big too fast. The government thought they were making profit off the poor, and that's an indirect reason why they decided to clamp down on MF1s. If you say an MFI won't go to capital market, then it will keep political compulsions under rein.
|9||Fayaz Ahmad Pirzada||4|