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Month: July 2010

Subprime Time: Microfinance Debt Hits the Stock Exchange

Subprime Time: Microfinance Debt Hits the Stock Exchange

Right now, the hot topic in microfinance is the initial public offering (IPO) of SKS Microfinance, one of the largest microfinance institutions in India with a portfolio size of over US$1 billion.  This isn’t the first time a major microfinance institution has gone public, but it is more interesting because the CEO is a disciple of Muhammad Yunus, who believes what organizations like SKS are doing undermines the social mission of microfinance.  But there is other interesting financial news in…

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The Development Umbrella: Systems Trump Solutions

The Development Umbrella: Systems Trump Solutions

William Easterly is a development economist who runs the blog Aidwatchers.   When I read his posts, I imagine an exasperated and pragmatic man who has had it up to here with people misunderstanding and oversimplifying the problems he has devoted his life to solving.  His latest post, titled “The Answer is 42! Why Development is About Problem-Solving Systems, Not Solutions” fits this category well.   He explains exactly why some things work and some things don’t, and reveals the key to…

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Microfinance on Wall Street: The Debate Rages On

Microfinance on Wall Street: The Debate Rages On

Given my post yesterday about the benefits of profitability, a new article in the Wall Street Journal about the IPO of the largest microfinance institution in India is serendipitous.  This isn’t that new of a story, though whenever microfinance makes it into the Wall Street Journal or the New York Time, you can guarantee that everyone in this industry will be talking about it.  Hopefully I will be one of the first to offer my opinion. There are a lot…

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How Profit Supports the Microfinance Social Mission

How Profit Supports the Microfinance Social Mission

Among some in the microfinance community, there is almost a reflexive tendency to dismiss profit as a bad thing, a corrupting force that causes microfinance institutions (MFIs) to abandon the social mission that underlies their reason for being.  I have thought a lot about the issue over the last few months and have seen a lot of upsides and downsides to the different arguments.  But more and more I have come to the conclusion that the two are really inseparable. …

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The Argument Against Subsidized Interest Rates

The Argument Against Subsidized Interest Rates

Microfinance institutions (MFI) the strive for operational and financial sustainability.  The former is an indicator that the MFI can, at the very least, break even based on its current operations and sources of funding, including loans, grants, and donations.  The latter takes into account where an MFI gets its money.  Since money from donors is basically free, an MFI that receives grants and is just barely breaking even would be unsustainable were that source of money to dry up.   In…

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Golfing in Burma’s New Capitol

Golfing in Burma’s New Capitol

Burma is a strange country.  It feels like the clock stopped in the 1950’s, and most forward progress along with it.  In the capitol city of Rangoon, everything is old – the cars, the buildings, the infrastructure, the money.  And this is the capitol, where most of the wealth in the country is concentrated.  Very little has been invested in modernization, mostly because it is tightly controlled by an authoritarian military junta that keeps the country isolated from the rest…

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The Economics of a Cookstove

The Economics of a Cookstove

The other day I went to the NWTF branch office in Hinigaran to interview clients that recently purchased an Envirofit cookstove. Cookstoves have received a lot of positive publicity recently as a cheap and effective solution to the problem of indoor air pollution – a problem that claims 1.4 million lives every year. The predominant stove in use by the poor – a basic design with a fire lit beneath a pot resting on three stones (a “three-stone stove”) –…

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