The conference panel of leading scholars and practitioners on microcredit: From left to right: Esther Duflo, Kate McKee, Lindsay Wallace, Carol Caruso, and Peer Stein.
Photo credit: Michael Rizzo.
On Friday, February 27, researchers, policymakers, investors and practitioners joined forces to move forward in the dialogue around microcredit’s impact on the lives of the poor. Many themes emerged from the day, but perhaps the most salient came from Dean Karlan, who summed things up in 2 words: “Understand clients.”
The conference began with six presentations from researchers Orazio Attanasio, Abhijit Banerjee, Jaikishan Desai, Esther Duflo, Dean Karlan and Costas Meghir, who completed randomized control trials (RCTs) in six countries examining the impact of microcredit. Lindsay Wallace, of the MasterCard Foundation, noted, “These studies may not be new, but they are incredibly important.” While specific findings varied from country to country, the studies confirmed with evidence what many in the field already assumed: that, while microcredit can be good for some, it is no magic bullet for tackling poverty.
What if you had no secure, affordable way to save money, pay bills, or obtain a business loan?
- financial inclusion
On Friday, February 27, CGAP, IPA, JPAL and the World Bank will host a full-day event to share the latest evidence from six randomized controlled trials across six countries. The event will feature the results presented by the researchers themselves, followed by a discussion on what this evidence means for policy and practice.
The impact of microcredit has been widely debated for the past decade, and has been both vilified and celebrated as a development tool. This new set of RCTs goes a long way toward confirming what many have suspected, but argued without much evidence, in recent years: that while microcredit can benefit some, the effects on poverty are modest, not transformational. Microcredit is but one tool in a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the multi-dimensional nature of poverty.
As many middle-income countries are moving towards embracing cash transfers with or without co-responsibilities attached (and the recent hype of handing cash directly to the poor), there is an important wave of programs that provide “cash plus” intervention.
This week, the World Bank is hosting the Data2X and the Gender Data Revolution event to draw attention to some of the most disturbing issues in development. Too many people are still uncounted. Too much data is out of date, unreliable or simply not available. Too many people are not able to access and use the data they need to make informed decisions and hold others accountable.
Lack of data on women and girls has hindered efforts to advance gender equality and design evidence-based policies that can lift the multiple constraints holding them back – and shed light on many aspects of their work, health, economic status, financial inclusion, ownership of and control of assets, access to services, voice, and agency. In many countries, particularly in the developing world, these data simply do not exist.
Created by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,Data2X is an exciting initiative that aims to build new partnerships to improve data collection and demonstrate how better data on the status of women and girls can guide policy, leverage investments and inform global development priorities.
All over the world, women are denied basic services and protection of their rights because of deficient civil registration and national identification (ID) systems. Lacking records of their birth and civil status, they are excluded from health coverage, schooling, social protection programs, and humanitarian response in emergencies and conflicts.
But today, with 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs are a big mouthful for the global development community to chew on, let alone to digest. Some see a risk that they will be simply unimplementable.
However, the problem becomes a little more manageable if we reflect on the means towards the goals. Not all of the goals are unrelated. Measures towards some targets can open up new ways to achieve others.
Consider, for example, target 16.9: By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration. These are actually two different, though related, targets as explained in the recent working paper by the Center for Global Development. Regardless the modalities to achieve it, the recognition of legal identity – together with its associated rights – is becoming a priority for governments around the world. Although there is no one model for providing legal identity, this SDG would urge states to ensure that all have free or low-cost access to widely accepted, robust identity credentials.
With legal identity – including name, nationality and recognized family relationships – one of the basic human rights set out in the Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be achieved and target 16.9 can stand on its own merits.
- Science of Delivery
- information and communication for development (ICT4D)
- information and communications technologies
- information and communication technology
- service delivery
- sustainable development goals
- sustainable development goal
- Social Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- The World Region
- financial inclusion
Like many World Bankers, I took some time recently to look through the newly released 2015 World Development Report “Mind, Society, and Behavior.” From my perspective, in the Finance and Markets Global Practice, one thing jumped out immediately: The report is packed with insights that are directly relevant to our work on financial inclusion.
In the Overview alone, the reader is met with an abundance of findings related to consumer protection, financial capability, savings and other key topics involving financial inclusion (grouped together under the theme of “household finance,” which is fully explored in Chapter 6). We’re told of how changes to the framing of payday-loan terms dramatically altered borrowing behavior in the Unitedc States; how embedding financial messages in an engaging television soap opera in South Africa improved the financial choices of viewers; and how SMS reminders increased saving rates in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines.
Of course, this is not the first body of work to summarize key behavioral lessons learned from decades of careful research on financial inclusion: See, for example, Chapters 6-9 of Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics or the Bank’s 2014 GFDR on Financial Inclusion.) But these examples do help drive home the key message of the report: Paying attention to how people think, and to how history and context shape their thinking, can improve the design and implementation of development policies and interventions that target human behavior.
The report highlights that psychological impulses such as present bias, loss aversion and cognitive overload can lead to poor financial decision-making. For those in or on the edge of poverty, the ramifications of these poor decisions – low savings, chronic over-indebtedness, investment shortsightedness – can be devastating. We are reminded that most adults in developing economies do not benefit from the sophisticated financial tools such as automatic salary deposits, mandatory retirement contributions, or default insurance programs that help mitigate the effects of automatic thinking.
Yet, as outlined in Chapter 6, there are a range of interventions that have been shown to help address behavioral constraints on financial decisions in a developing-country context. Many of those interventions take advantage of what we know about the natural processes of the mind, using techniques such as framing, default settings and emotion persuasion to nudge people toward better financial decisions.
The recently launched GSM Association Code of Conduct for Mobile Money Providers is a welcome initiative. There is increasing recognition of the economic benefits that digital financial services can bring, along with an understanding that achieving ambitious financial inclusion targets may well depend on their rapid rollout. Such targets are being proposed by the World Bank, under the Maya Declaration and in other forums.
At the same time, there is a recognition that consumer protection is a critical element in building trust in the use of such services. See, for example, Principle 4 of the G20 Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion and the recently held Responsible Finance Forum, as well as the outcomes of the 2014 deliberations of the 2014 Global Partnership on Financial Inclusion.
The code of conduct will apply to “mobile money providers” and to “mobile money.” The former term is not defined (could a bank be a provider?), whilst the latter term has a broad definition that provides (in summary) that “mobile money is a transformational service that uses information and communication technologies (ICIs) and non-bank retail channels to extend the delivery of financial services to clients who cannot be reached profitably with traditional branch-based financial services.” The example given (in summary) is an e-wallet, payments-related service.
The object of the code is expressed as being, in short, to support the continued development of the industry by:
- "Improving [the] quality of services and customer satisfaction;
- "Facilitating the implementation of trusted partnerships; and
- "Building trust with regulators and encouraging the implementation of appropriate and proportional regulatory standards.”
To support these objectives, there are eight principles dealing with safeguarding client funds; measures to combat money laundering and terrorism financing; monitoring of staff, agents and entities providing outsourced services; reliable service provision; security of the mobile network and channel; the provision of information to customers; complaints and personal data.
Many African countries are striving to move up the global value chain in the footsteps of countries like China and (more recently) Bangladesh. We asked Paul Lister – Director of Legal Services and Company Secretary, Associated British Foods (ABF) – how ABF and its subsidiaries determine where it will source goods. He says that in the end, efficiency is key.
Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China. Its garment industry accounts for 80% of its overall exports and around 4 million jobs. Atiur Rahman, Governor of the Central Bank of Bangladesh, tells us that the government sees employment (both formal and informal) as the link between growth and poverty reduction, with an emphasis on inclusive growth policy and financial inclusion.