Microfinance Gateway has launched a great new resource center on regulating and supervising microfinance. This is a great resource and brings together tons of great information.
East Asia and Pacific
In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs an impressive trio of Nancy Birdsall, Dani Rodrik and Arvind Subramanian discuss “How to Help Poor Countries.” Their main point is that too great a focus is given to increasing aid and market access; this at the risk of ignoring some other very important issues. They discuss many of these issues and come to many conclusions (for example, that TRIPS should be abolished).
As of June 19, the IFC-India documentary “Raising Up: Women of India” will be playing on PBS Television stations across the US. This documentary is part of a series which examines the role and status of women in Indian society, with a specific focus on poverty, gender and microfinance.
Leah Pinto blogs at NextBillion.net to say that she doesn't believe that increased competition between aid agencies will make them more efficient. Well, that's true, but I think she's missed the point - competition may not increase efficiency, but if aid agencies are properly evaluated, with the best ones expanded and the worst shut down, that would be another matter.
Leah also proposes that the private sector be strengthened and that sustainable microfinance institutions be established.
In an effort to tame its red-tape jungle and lure foreign investors, new legislation in India looks to special economic zones (SEZs). So far 11 have been set-up, offering investor’s secure walled off facilities, tax breaks and beneficial custom laws. However, more important than tax breaks is the red-tape:
As an update to a previous post, the World Bank has made the video and materials from their recent event on “The Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile Phones in Africa” available on-line. This event occurred the day after the AEI event previously discussed. Judge for yourselves which one was better. It would be interesting to see if the presentations changed much in light of the different audiences?
The IFC has released a new collection of country level SME data. The data covers 76 countries and presents information regarding the size and contribution of the SME sector and how the sector is broken down into micro, small and medium firms. The effort to bring this data together should be commended, especially since every country and organization appears to be using a different SME definition. I was shocked to see that so little information is readily available, very few countries having post-2002 data.
Moletsi Mbeki, the brother of South Africa’s President, believes that the private sector is key to Africa’s future development. In a recent paper of his he argues that the international donor community needs to concentrate on lending their expertise (especially regarding increasing access to finance) as apposed to their funds. He also believes that the power and voice of the private sector needs to be increased:
In today’s WSJ Peter Schaefer makes the argument that key to future poverty alleviation is unlocking the “dead capital” or “illiquid savings” of the poor – the capital which is sunk in informal homes and businesses.