• Crisis in Indian state Andhra Pradesh

 

  • The international press was recently alarmed by reports on the crisis in Indian state Andhra Pradesh, where after a series of government interventions has led to mass defaults on microcredit. The first impulse was undoubtedly the article in The Economist "Discredited" published the 4th of November 2010.
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  • What are the real facts, what conclusions can be drawn from the situation and what is the inherent risk?

  • Andhra Pradesh is the parent tissue of Indian microfinance, mainly thanks to its development work of government in the past. In the 80s here was developed micro-credit innovation, called the Self Help Group's programs supported by the Indian Agricultural Bank and the World Bank, during which they have invested heavily in the education of clients and support of the voluntary sector, that built robust loan portfolio.

  • In the past two decades, many nonprofit organizations in Andhra Pradesh transformed into commercial MFIs such as BASIX, SHARE, SKS, Spandana. So there was competition between state programs and private commercial MFIs.
    Compared with government and non-profit programs, private entities have experienced high growth , which only increased the rivalry with the state SHG programs.
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  • About a month ago the state government suspended the operations of commercial MFIs, resulting in outstanding obligations multimillion-dollar clients.

  • The government took this step on suspicion of three misdemeanors:
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  • 1st Method of recovery of outstanding micro-loans goes beyond the boundaries of ethics, which in some cases may result in suicides of debtors
    2nd MFIs lend money at very high rates
    3rd MFIs state programs draw clients

  • The rivalry between the private and public sector, in Andhra Pradesh has a long trajectory. In 2006 there was an almost identical crisis, the so-called "Krishna Crisis" when the state closed down 50 branches of private MFIs because of the identical issues mentioned above.
    The state and the private sector then initiated a dialogue, public audits were made and the voluntary code of ethics created. Neither suspicion could not be demonstrated, and institutions were reopened.
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  • What conclusions can we draw?

    1st There is no world crisis of microfinance, caused by crisis of morality. It is a crisis caused by government intervention in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where reigned long-term tension between the government and the private sector.
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  • 2nd Based on the findings of a similar crisis in Andhra Pradesh in 2006, we believe that this crisis will be resolved in the next few days, by disengaging the state restrictions, since neither the state nor private sector can have long-term interest to reduce entrepreneurial activities. Lower intensity of economic activities will lead to lower long-term growth and increasing poverty.
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  • 3rd It is likely that the media served us with a mix of truthful information, noisy propaganda, public and private. It is therefore necessary to verify the information and wait for definitive conclusions. Information from Andhra Pradesh is incoherent, for example, nearly a third of suicides - borrowers repaid without delay and therefore the motives for suicide were not associated with microcredit.
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  • What can affect the situation on microfinance as a global level?

  • Repayment is a question of local micro-credit, because they are overwhelmingly provided at the level of villages and small towns. Among debtors links exist only in the regions. Similarly, microfinance institutions are not internationally active entities, but mainly local initiatives. So it is no worry that the disease originated, "contagion", as in the case of stock or investment management, since the markets are local micro-regional character and are not linked.

  • The microfinance operations in Mexico will not be affected by the situation in Andhra Pradesh. The rule stays: one should select primarily on the basis of detailed information on the microfinance institution and the region in which these are actively employed, since each of them is a complex, peculiar universe.
     
  • Drastic, nonorganic intervention of states is in the long run detrimental to the development, although one can not deny the fact that in some regions of the planet occurs overindebtedness of clients, leading to unethical practices and in such cases, the regulatory intervention is rightful.

  • Indian crisis will undoubtedly lead to an interesting lesson for all players and lead to further development of cooperation between state and private initiatives in this field, which necessarily must mutually complement and cooperate.

 


  • Interview with our partner, social entrepreneur in Mexico, Noe Mendoza Fuente
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  • Noe Mendoza Fuente
  • 25 year-old social entrepreneur. Studied a major in business in Mexico City and is currently coursing post-graduate studies in rural development. He founded a Mexcian NGO that supports development in rural communities surrounding Mexico City through a strategy of building social capital and technical empowerment to small farmers. He collaborates with the Senate of the Republic of Mexico assesing on legislation issues regarding rural development strategies and cooperative societies.
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  • How do you find the development of humanity today?

  • It is encouraging and absurd at the same time. Some scientists support the idea that human kind has reached enough technological development to fulfill all human kind’s human rights (education, health and so forth). There are technicall solutions available to resolve almost all scarcity problems regarding natural resources around the world. However human kind is experiencing levels of raging inequality as never before in history. I believe this is the consecuence of a paradigm that will change. An idea of the way human beings behave as individuals and as social groups. It is undeniable that homo sapiens are an extraordinary and beautiful result of nature, but we oftenly misconceptualize the fundamentals of our power as human kind. It is not individualism and domination over the forces of nature the responsible of scientific and technological achievements. Cooperation and integration with nature is the new paradigm that must come. What is the point on being able to cure complex diseases when there are still large portions of global population that dies by now-a-days preventable diseases? Why should humanity increase the value of the goods produced by the world economy if it is captured by a small group of people the becomes smaller as economy keeps growing? How can we expect to keep growing as we damage nature which the source of growth for our civilization? The coin is in the air and we are running out of time. There are alternatives that strive to move forward to a new conception of human species and its relation with its society and its natural environment. It is the challenge of re-thinking the encouraging and absurd state of global development.

 

  • What went wrong, was had succeeded, did economic development in Mexico bring results?

  • The general conception is that Mexico is losing positions in the battle to solve its development challenges. The national embraced neoliberalism in the mid 1980’s; the discourse that praises for productivity, competitiveness, private entrepreneurship and capital-intensive investments has left behind the majority of the population and has broadened social gaps. Still, this model is not completely discredited because center and right-wing leaders argue that its deficiency is the effect of it not being fully adopted; therefore its results have not been able to flourish in all strata of society (their defenders claim). The lean results being presumed are that Mexico has substantially increased exports in the last two decades, it has consolidated a few big corporations in the global market and is the 12th biggest economy (GDP) in the world. The other side of the coin is dramatic. Job creation grows slower than population growth, and it causes that around 60% of the economically active population depends on income that comes from “informal” activities (illegal forms of commerce. Do not include organized crime) . The first source of national income is the remittances sent by Mexicans that live in the USA (most of them undocumented immigrants), the second is the exports of crude oil and the third one is the industry of tourism. Mexico used to be self-sufficient in its food production in the first half of the XX century. Now-a-days it exports many crops to the US but has an ever growing dependency on imports. We should add a growing technological dependency from the developing world, and a chronicle weakening of competitiveness in global evaluations. 48% of Mexican population lives under asset-based poverty and it this level doesn’t seem likely to go down in the near future. This would be a brief diagnosis of the current national economy. But it has not been that bad always. In 1960’s Mexican economy was admired because it was one of the few nations that achieved fast growth without raging inflation. What went wrong? It is an issue that has been extensively researched and to explain it would exceed the scope of this interview, but I dare to synthesize that Mexican economy had an agricultural basement, and its transition to an industrial economy was not successful because the political system was based on corruption and the State limited the potential of society in order to keep control of its political powers. The successful model of development of the first half of the 20th century was unable to evolve given the political conditions in the country. Later on, neoliberalism was adopted as international policies moved in that direction, creating and abrupt change in Mexican economy. This abrupt change in direction is showing its devastating effects in the early 21st century.

 

  • Why do you consider cooperatives as an alternative and what is needed to impulse it?

  • Human experience is regarding how it is not accumulation and self-interest what will spread development to all segments of global society. I believe cooperation among individuals, the search for common goals is the key to reduce social gaps. Elinor Ostrom has become a ground-breaking author with her arguments on how cooperation mechanisms can be an effective way to solve natural resources scarcity problems. Cooperatives, as a version of production-units that solve human needs , offer an alternative that makes the production of wealth, its fair distribution and an orientation on sustainability, compatible concepts. Cooperatives are an alternative legal form of association, but they are not the only alternative for responsible cooperation. Today cooperatives are being supported by innovations in legislation in Mexico, but the most important duty is the adoption of its fundamentals by social entrepreneurs that want to build a new paradigm of economy. Spread of knowledge is the basis for its impulse. The need for an alternative is already there, as well as enthusiasm and talent of entrepreneurs that believe a different way of conceptualizing development is possible.
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  • What can be done by human individuals siting in comfortable chairs in Central Europe to promote human development?

  • It is not a bad thing if someone is sitting in a comfortable chair, most surely that person has worked very hard to be able to do so and that is worth to be recognized. But more important than that self-recognition is the awareness that individual effort is not detached from collective achievements and collective achievements take place within a natural environment and particular conditions. Warren Buffet, one of the richest persons on earth, recognizes that he has been very lucky because, he says, his chances of being a successful investor would have been very diminished if he born in a developing country. Buffet, as well as each member of a determined collectivity, is inherited with the achievements -and defaults- of its social group. Therefore no one should feel distant from global society, and with nature as a whole. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as a strange thing to the reality that surrounds us. If someone in Central Europe is sitting in a comfortable chair, she/he might as well have a powerful technological tool called “computer” in front of him. Then this person can research and reflect on new ideas for solving development problems that global society faces now-a-days. I think that’s is the basic step towards transcendental action; to inform our-selves, reflect, debate ideas, and link ourselves with others in common goals that aim at sustainable development.
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  • Can you tell us shortly on your experience with Vínculo Comunitario or the cooperatives you had collaborated with?

  • I’ll refer to rural Mexico since it is the sector I work with. I have seen that rural communities in Mexico are very diverse. A schematic distinction can be made between North and South. North is more technology-oriented, more efficient and market-oriented. South responds to a logic of survival, tradition guarding, and satisfaction of basic needs. Nevertheless the whole rural Mexico lacks Social Capital. In general, peasants and farmers do not tend to collaborate as teams inside their communities to be able to compete in the market. That’s why industry and agriculture is detached in Mexico. Peasants were used to depend almost completely on the government, which in turn, had its basement support on these popular masses. Now that government has stepped back, peasants are left alone in an open market economy. It is contradictory that rural Mexico doesn’t know how to work cooperatively, because it has all the potential to do it. Cultural identity, local traditions aim towards cooperation, but this cooperation seems to be limited to cultural and artistic expression excluding economic activities. This is the heritage of the political system that ruled all over the XX century in Mexico. But there are successful stories of communities -usually with strong identity structures- that have been able to compete in the global market and keep their traditional values inside their localities. TOSEPAN TITATANISKE, UNIPRO and USIRI are cooperative enterprises that have become cornerstones for egalitarian development in their regions inside Mexico. Each one of them has been widely studied by social scientist and they are examples showing us that cooperation is a possible alternative for Mexican rural sector.
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  • Can you tell us shortly on your works you are proud on?

  • Right now Vínculo Comunitario (VC) is working with a cooperative of milk-producers in a town near Mexico City. Many development projects, private and public, have tried to support them and most of them have failed roundly. VC analyzed that those failures take place because development and the way to impulse it in a marginalized community is wrongly conceptualized. Usually there is an external actor who enters the community and tells the people that they are doing wrong, and that they should do what he is saying. This approach never works, no matter how persuasive or technically equipped the external actor might be. Solutions to development must be authorship of the protagonist community. VC is detonating a process of empowerment in Tlalmanalco, Estado de México, by making a diagnosis of the units of productions of the milk producers where the main protagonist is the farmer. VC gives them the tools to analyze their situation and design their strategies of development supported by th NGO’s technical team. Right now VC is consolidating a group of milk-producers that is author of its own development strategies and will connect it with socially responsible investors in Mexico and in Czech Republic through www.myelen.com. It is a long way to go but the acceptance of this NGO in the community and the committed response of the farmers are our main source of proud and a sign we are going the right way.

 

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