Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A good lender or just another kneecap breaker?

There are a lot of recent writings that tells you that financing the downtrodden is good business. No news there! Scrooge and the mafia have known that for a long time. If you can get an average rate of interest high enough so that the good debtors cover the bad …you’re in business.

Suppose a group A of 100 borrowers and you lend to each one of them $1000 and that in order to cover your costs you would need to charge an interest of 10% if all of them duly repaid their loans. Then, if you charge a rate of 11 percent to all your profits would be $1.000 equal to 1% on your total lending.

But if a group B has 10 per cent of the debtors not repaying anything then you would need to charge 23.3 percent to net the same $1.000 in profits. For a group C, where 30 per cent of the debtors do not paying back any principle or interest, the interest rate applicable needed to obtain the same results need to be 58.6 percent.

As a lender you get exactly the same profit from lending to any of these groups but let me assure you that for those borrowers who do service their commitments paying 11 percent or 58.67 percent is far from same.

Most, if not all of the current analysis of the activities of micro-credit institutions, do not consider the above and so they do automatically conclude that lending to the groups A, B and C has the same development impact, notwithstanding that group C leaves 30 per cent more of its members suffering from not being able to service their debts and the capable having to pay 47.6 percent more in interest rates than if they had been, correctly, de-facto, placed in group A.

It is time that we refine our evaluation systems so as to include in the analysis of the micro-credit finance institutions their respective repayment distribution curves. Otherwise, we will not be able to separate the good lenders from the kneecap breakers. Otherwise we are more than showing any solidarity with the downtrodden forcing internal solidarity upon them just to make a buck.

For instance I invite you to read the document that you could find in CGAP’s web site Measuring Microcredit Delinquency: Ratios Can Be Harmful to Your Health or any other documents, to see if the perspective of the final clients, the borrowers, have been given due considerations.

I cannot say whether CGAP is actually considering this dilemma issue but, if so, it certainly does not seem to be of a too high priority for them; something which could have to do with having too many “bankers” in CGAP to allow for development, different from the development of microcredit institutions, to be considered sufficiently. In micro credits, just like in any other activity, the legitimacy of the profits is also direct function of how they are obtained.