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February 2013

Exits from the Debt Trap? India’s Bailout for Highly-Indebted Rural Households

Martin Kanz's picture

Extreme levels of household debt are common across the developing world. This is especially true in rural economies, where households face significant income volatility, but lack access to basic financial tools — such as insurance or futures contracts — that could reduce vulnerability to recurring income shocks.

In India, where over-indebtedness among rural households has been an important issue for decades, the government resorted to an unusually bold policy response. Prompted by a highly visible increase in farmer suicides, most notably in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, and a wave of defaults among microfinance borrowers, the Government of India embarked on what was perhaps the largest household level debt relief program in history. Announced in then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s budget speech on February 28, 2008 India’s Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Program for Small and Marginal Farmers, cancelled the outstanding debts of 45 million rural households across the country, amounting to approximately 1.7% of India’s GDP.

Financial Inclusion in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

Those who live in fragile and conflict-affected states face limitations that most of us simply cannot comprehend. Not only do the larger cycles of conflict and insecurity often lie beyond the control of individual adults, but the weak institutions that characterize these economies also severely restrict the opportunities for adults to manage their risks and improve their own lives. Amartya Sen has written that the central aspect of well-being is 'functioning,' defined as the freedom of choice and control over one's life. For adults living in fragile and conflict-affected states, the inability to smooth consumption and make investments through formal savings and credit systems is one of many restrictions on their 'functioning'.

Just 15 percent of adults in these economies have an account at a formal financial institution, compared to 24 percent, on average, in low-income countries and 43 percent in the rest of the developing world. This is the cruel paradox of financial inclusion in fragile and conflict-affected states: it is in precisely these countries that having a safe place to save or a reliable method to receive remittances is most important, yet access to and usage of basic financial services remains incredibly low.

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Microenterprises in Mexico: Motives for starting operations, expectations, size and financing

Pablo Peña's picture

Standard microeconomic theory establishes profit maximization as the ultimate goal of all enterprises. The entrepreneur’s motive for starting a business is not considered as a variable that could affect that goal. However, enterprises are not all the same. Across different countries, many entrepreneurs report non-pecuniary benefits as the primary reason for starting their business—and Mexico is not an exception. Those benefits include “flexibility” and “independence.” For other entrepreneurs, starting a business was a second option, only pursued after being laid off. These motives are especially common for microenterprises, which represent the large majority of businesses in Mexico.

In this study we shed light on how the motives for starting a business help explain differences in expectations and performance of firms. Different expectations mean different appetites for financing. A significant number of microenterprises’ owners in Mexico claim they do not need external financing. Moreover, most microentrepreneurs do not perceive the lack of financing as an obstacle for their businesses. Many of these businesses have little desire to grow or innovate, if any.