Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pakistan Ranks High in Microfinance

Pakistan ranks first in Asia and third in the world in Economist Intelligence Unit's overall microfinance business environment rankings for 2011. Among other Asian nations, only the Philippines at #6 made the top ten list.



On a scale of 0-100, Pakistan scores 62.8, just behind top-ranked Peru's 67.8 and second-ranked Bolivia's 64.7 in overall global rankings of 55 countries. Among nations in South Asia region, India ranks 27 with a score of 43.1 and Bangladesh ranks 43 with a score of 30.9. Sri Lanka is at #48 with a score of 27.4 followed by Nepal at 51 scoring 26.1.

Among various categories, Pakistan ranks #1 in regulatory framework and practices and #5 in supporting institutional framework.

Here's an excerpt on Asia from the EIU report titled "Global microscope on the microfinance business environment":

"Pakistan and the Philippines again top the regional rankings for East and South Asia. These countries both finished in the top ten globally, signifying strong environments for microfinance. Indeed, Pakistan and the Philippines came first and second globally, respectively, in the Regulatory Framework and Practices category, suggesting strong regulatory regimes and good prospects for MFIs to enter the sector and perform effectively. The Philippines, for example, has had a strong enabling environment for microfinance for more than a decade. Cambodia is third best in Asia and makes it into the top 25% globally. India comes next, but fell precipitously after the crisis that struck the sector last year. Mongolia finished fourth in Asia, but was the region’s most-improved performer."

Recently, Pakistan's central bank governor Haris Anwar said that large segments the nation's population have no bank accounts and many do not understand why it puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to their personal financial management. According to Pakistan Access to Finance Survey (A2FS), only 12 percent of the population has access to formal financial services. Of the remaining 88 percent, only 32 percent are informally served and 56 percent are completely excluded, Anwar said, adding that according to the A2FS analysis, about 40 percent of the financially excluded population reported lack of understanding of financial products as the main reason for financial exclusion.

It has long been recognized by poverty alleviation experts that pursuing policies for increasing financial inclusion, such as encouraging microfinance, are absolutely essential to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty in Pakistan, where 50% of the workforce is made up of low-end self-employed. Other efforts toward bringing financial services to the poor and lower middle class in Pakistan include financial literacy initiatives and growth of branchless mobile banking in city slums and rural areas of the country.

Pakistan’s first-ever National Financial Literacy Program was launched earlier this year with the support and collaboration of Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan Banks’ Association (PBA), Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and BearingPoint consultants.

The growth of branchless banking in Pakistan is now being held up a success story at international fora. Within a span of just two years, there are now almost 18,000 branchless banking outlets surpassing the 10,000 conventional bank branches, according to Governor Anwar. UBL Omni’s branchless banking service launched in April 2010 by United Bank has won several contracts to disburse payments for nongovernment organizations and government schemes to help those affected by floods. UBL reports that at the end of June it had 5,000 agents disbursing payments to 2 million recipients under these programs. UBL Omni has also started accepting loan repayments for microfinance institutions (MFIs) and providing cash management facilities for businesses.

According to a recent World Bank report titled "More and Better Jobs in South Asia" which shows that 63% of Pakistan's workforce is self-employed, including 13% high-end self-employed. Salaried and daily wage earners make up only 37% of the workforce. Access to money is necessary for many of these entrepreneurs to succeed in realizing their dreams.



The history of microfinance in Pakistan started with the launch of Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Kutchi Abadies (shanty towns) of Karachi in early 1980’s, according to a paper published by Abdul Qayyum and Munir Ahmed. In the late 1960s, prior to OPP, a few NGOs in the rural areas of Pakistan began to experiment with microcredit by offering subsidized loans. However, they mostly failed to reach the poor due to abuse and corruption. Now there are dozens of Micro Finance Institutions working in Pakistan. The MFIs in Pakistan can be divided into different groups based on their uniqueness that separates them from other financial institutions and makes them similar in terms of the way they function.

The first group consists of financial institutions with microfinance as a separate product line. The share of microfinance related activities of these institutions is up to 10 percent. This group includes Orix Leasing and the Bank of Khyber –both are profit making organizations and consider microfinance as a separate product line.

The second group refers to the specialized MFI’s, which includes two microfinance banks - The Khushhali Bank and First Microfinance Bank Limited (FMBL) - and two NGOs - KASHF Foundation and Asasah. All these institutions completely focus on provision of financial services and also have commercial focus as well.

Third category MFIs related to activities of the Rural Support Programs which deals with integrated Rural Development Programs with microfinance as one of its activities. These organizations are National Rural Support Programs (NRSP), Punjab Rural Support Programs (PRSP) and Sarhad Rural Support Programs (SRSP). The last group consists of private NGOs. These NGOs are basically integrated development organizations with microfinance as one of their activities. These include Orangi Pilot Project, Sungi Foundation, Taraqee Foundation, Development Action for Mobilization and Emancipation (TRDP), Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO) and Development Action for Mobilization and Emancipation (DAMEN), among others.

Khushhali Bank was established in August 2000 as part of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Pakistan Microfinance Sector Development Program (MSDP) was developed with the technical assistance and funding of the Asian Development Bank, which provided a US$150 million loan to the government of Pakistan, US$70 million being used for micro-loans provided by KB. Headquartered in Islamabad, KB operates under the central bank's supervision (State Bank of Pakistan) with several commercial banks operating as its primary shareholders.

To broaden access, there are now efforts underway to offer Shariah-compliant microfinance products to those who are reluctant to participate in interest-based banking. Farz Foundation is among the first to do so. It is engaged in Islamic micro-financing for livestock and agriculture among the rural poor.

Pakistan has a long way to go to achieve financial inclusion for the majority of its population. The current efforts on increasing access to money for the poor are a good start on a long journey that may take decades to complete. My readers who are interested in helping the poor in Pakistan by offering small loans of $25 or more have a choice of many websites to do so, including kiva.org which I have been using. The loans to Pakistani recipients are administered through Asasah, a Kiva partner in the country.


Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance

IBA on Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Floods Dampen Enthusiasm on Pakistan Independence Day

24 comments:

Iqbal Singh said...

Even if this blog just helps one poor person it would be wonderful!
Poverty is a curse on humanity regardless of what nationality you are and it is sad that Indians and Pakistanis engage in and maybe even cherish how poor the other country is!
Micro finance works because it gives the hard working poor a chance and hope to succeed

Anonymous said...

micro finance is not atall successful and has at best a marginal impact on lifting a country out of poverty.

Korea,China,Singapore etc etc developed/are rapidly developing without any micro finance boom.

In the long term it is investment in social and physical infrastructure and heavy industries that make a country develop in any sustainable basic.

If a cash strapped government has a finite amount of money it should spend that on education,infrastructure and subsidizing nascent heavy industry NOT fritter it away on such schemes.

The poverty alleviation achieved by grameen bank etc is at best transient.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "micro finance is not atall successful and has at best a marginal impact on lifting a country out of poverty."

Money is the lifeblood of any market economy, and unless there is a level playing field in access to money and financial services for the rich, the middle class and the poor, there can be little development or social progress.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Express Tribune on a book launch to increase financial literacy in Pakistan:

Blame it on either the absence of institutional support or a lack of eagerness on the part of the academia, the reality remains that business students in Pakistan had so far no textbook on banking and finance that described the complex relationship between the financial system and economic development in Pakistani context.

It was this academic vacuum that made Dr Shakil Faruqi write a two-volume book titled “Financial System and Economic Development – Pakistan,” which was launched at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Monday in a ceremony chaired by IBA Dean and Director Dr Ishrat Husain and attended by IBA faculty members, students, economists and many former and current State Bank officials.

Formerly associated with the World Bank, Dr Faruqi has a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He now teaches at the Lahore School of Economics (LSE), which is also the publisher of the two-part book.

Speaking on the occasion, former head of World Bank’s Learning Centre Tariq Hussain termed the book unique because it explained the theory of banking and finance by linking it to its actual application in the economy of Pakistan.

He said the chapters on Islamic finance discussed the issue in a purely academic manner. “It says what Islamic finance is and what it’s not. Also, it does this in an academic, rather than argumentative, way.”

Addressing the ceremony, Dr Faruqi said his students knew about the US Federal Reserve more than they knew about the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) because the textbooks they used were by American authors. Saying that his students often complained finance was a dry subject, Dr Faruqi stated, jokingly, that his task was to make it as interesting as a Bollywood movie.

The first volume of the book has chapters on the financial system, interest rate, financial savings, credit system, Islamic banking, monetary management, etc. The second volume has chapters on the financial market, securities market, assets, yields, returns, trading in derivatives, capital market, long-term debt market, stock market, portfolio financing, etc.

The first and second volumes of the book cost Rs1,900 and Rs1,600, respectively.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/339368/vacuum-filled-textbook-on-banking-and-finance-launched/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan central bank to boost lending to stimulate economy, reports Bloomberg:

Pakistan’s central bank aims to spur lending to small companies, farming and housing in the next three years to boost growth in an economy where government borrowing has curbed credit and kept interest rates elevated.

“These three areas have to be stimulated and will become engines of growth,” Governor Yaseen Anwar, 60, said in an interview at the State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi on March 2. He forecast the economy will expand by 3 percent to 4 percent in the year ending June.

Anwar has kept the benchmark rate at 12 percent since he was officially made governor in October, refraining from adding to two reductions in 2011 as the nation grapples with the fastest inflation in Asia after Vietnam. He said government borrowing is impeding credit, as insufficient tax collections force Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s administration to turn to central bank funding to finance flood rehabilitation and a war against militants in the northwest.

“The State Bank cannot do much in isolation without the government taking some very basic corrective measures,” said Nasim Beg, executive vice chairman of Arif Habib Investments Ltd. in Karachi, which oversees 35 billion rupees ($385 million) in stocks and bonds. “The government will be likely to go for aggressive populist spending early in this election year and worry about meeting revenue targets later -- more pressures for the governor.”
----------------
Anwar, who worked at Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bank of America Corp. in his 33-year career before joining the State Bank, cited the government’s commitment to “zero borrowings” from the central bank as one of the reasons for reducing rates in July.

“We need attention on the revenue side in terms of tax reform,” Anwar said, adding he thinks the government may meet its collection target of 1.95 trillion rupees in the year ending June 30. The ratio of tax to gross domestic product, which the finance ministry estimates is 9 percent, “has to go up into the teens,” he said.

Only one in 10 Pakistanis pay taxes, limiting the government’s ability to fund a budget deficit that the International Monetary Fund estimates may widen to as much as 7 percent of gross domestic product this year.-----------


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-04/pakistan-s-anwar-plans-lending-boost-to-bolster-economic-growth.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Express Tribune on rapid growth of mobile banking in Pakistan:

Sharing statistics of SBP, Anwar said value of branchless banking transactions reached Rs79,410 million during the last quarter. Total number of branchless banking accounts have increased to 929,184, he said, while branchless banking deposits have grown to Rs503 million.

SBP introduced branchless banking regulations in 2008. He further said around 80 million branchless banking transactions of Rs300 billion have been executed in Pakistan. “I am expecting a surge in the number of access points to over 50,000 very soon,” he said. Total volume (number) of transactions has jumped to 20.6 million during the October to December 2011, Anwar said. The average number daily transactions has increased to 228,855, he added.

The average size of branchless banking transactions, Anwar said, is Rs3,855 which shows that mobile phone technology and agent-based banking are providing financial services to unbanked poor.

While talking about the benefits of branchless banking, he said, rural customers will no longer be required to travel long distances. He further said a large proportion of population – which is unbanked – has been heavily reliant on cash-based transactions, thus causing a negative impact on documentation of the economy, the tax-base, efficiency of economic transactions, etc.

Representatives of the world’s leading software providers gave detailed presentations and discussed case studies on how mobile banking has succeeded in other emerging as well as developed markets.

Mobile banking is the only way forward, said Mathew Talbot, Senior Vice President, Mobile Commerce Sybase 365 – which was recently acquired by SAP. Pakistan is one of the fastest developing markets for branchless banking in the world, he said, which is why Sybase is here.

Sybase provides technologies to banks, which enable the latter to have full control of their bank accounts and make transactions through mobile device regardless of their location. It creates opportunities for bringing the unbanked and under-banked segments of the society into the financial network.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/350701/pakistan-rated-among-fastest-growing-markets-in-mobile-banking/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan plans disaster insurance, reports Reuters:

Pakistan plans to roll out a national insurance scheme, making it mandatory for every citizen to be covered against risks from natural hazards, the head of the country's disaster management authority said on Wednesday.

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes, cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides and avalanches. Devastating floods in 2010 disrupted the lives of 20 million people – many more than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and cost $10 billion.

"Pakistan is making it mandatory for the entire population to be covered against disaster risks. The idea, at the end of the day, is to cover the lives and livelihoods of the population of the entire country," said Zafar Iqbal Qadir, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.

"Most parts of our country are vulnerable … either to disasters, or to poverty, or to both."

Qadir, who was speaking at a regional conference on "managing the risks of climate extremes and disasters in Asia", said Pakistan's cabinet has approved the plan and his agency was working on a comprehensive risk insurance plan that would hopefully be rolled out by the end of the year.

The country had already received a $500-million World Bank loan to set up a fund to pay for the plan, he said.

Authorities also intend to tap private sector money through their corporate social responsibility schemes as well as local philanthropists, he added.

And he said a meeting held with international insurance companies to discuss the issue in Karachi last month was positive.

Last month, a major report by the United Nations said the world needed to prepare better to deal with extreme weather and rising seas caused by climate change, in order to save lives and limit deepening economic losses.

SUBSIDISED PREMIUMS

The U.N. climate panel report forecast that all countries will be vulnerable to an expected increase in heat waves, more intense rains and floods and a probable rise in the intensity of droughts.

It suggested possible strategies to help countries adapt and prepare better such early warning systems, improving building standards and preserving ecosystems such as mangroves.

Financing disaster recovery and rebuilding through micro-insurance was another tool, the report said, which would help limit the already-strained cash reserves of poor nations.

"We are considering subsidising premiums for those who can't afford and paying full premium for those who are living below the poverty line," Qadir said, adding that it was essential that those most vulnerable, who are often the poorest, were covered.

Pakistan plans to pre-negotiate payments with insurance companies and also discard the need to file claims, said Qadir, as disaster insurance would need to reach people quickly.

"The best part is that communities which are prone to disasters are currently dependent on someone to come to respond to their needs, someone to feed them and give them shelter. We would remove the dependency syndrome of communities," he said.

"We would like them to be getting (a) response, within a few hours of the disaster occurring, from the insurance world."


http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/pakistan-plans-hazard-risk-insurance

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an except of a microinsurance report on Pakistan:

Pakistan still needs a sustained effort to raise awareness amongst its people with regard to the benefit of insurance, followed by the delivery of insurance products to the poor. There is also great scope in Pakistan to diversify microinsurance products, for example, crop insurance. Indeed, there is a dire need of agriculture microinsurance: in case of natural calamities farmers have to bear the loss of their crop and face default on credit. The need to cover risk and investments of marginalised farmers is of paramount importance.
Existing microinsurance providers in Pakistan : (alphabetical order)


• AKDN Aga Khan Development Network
• BRSP Balochistan Rural Support Programme
• Development Action for Mobilization and Emancipation (DAMEN)
• Kashf Foundation
• NRSP National Rural Support Programme
• PRSP Punjab Rural Support Programme
• Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO)
• SRSO Sindh Rural Support Organization
• SRSP Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP)
• SUNGI Development Foundation
• TRDP Thardeep Rural Development Programme
-----------
In Pakistan, serious efforts for microinsurance at the national level only picked up in the last decade with the advent of Microfinance institutions (MFIs) and a mushrooming growth of NGOs. However, there is still scope for extensive growth in this area. The Government has been doing its part by providing support to the RSPs through the creation of SMEDA (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority) and recently by the State Bank of Pakistan’s directive to all banks to have at least 20% of their branches in the rural areas. This will open up new avenues to infiltrate financing into crops, livestock and other basic requirements.

The government is also currently working on microfinance policy. It is involved in many social protection programmes, one of which is Benazir Income Support Programme (a cash grant programme being implemented nationwide and aiming to cover 3.5 million women during its first round).

The Planning Commission is also committed to organising roundtables workshops for gathering the viewpoints and perspectives of various experts and professionals for the development of the microinsurance policy.

Besides, the Asian development Bank (ADB) is also playing an important role in Pakistan in the microinsurance sector. From 2001-2008, the ADB had a $150 million Microfinance Sector Development Programme which included $80 million for on-lending, $40 million for social development and $20 million for community infrastructure. A more recent programme from 2006-2008 has been improving access to financial services of which one is microinsurance. A $20 million grant has been given to the Government by the ADB which will be administered through the State Bank of Pakistan over the next 2 decades.

The RSPN-Adamjee Health Microinsurance Model

The Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) was registered in 2001 under Pakistan’s Companies Ordinance (1984) as a non-profit company by the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) of Pakistan. RSPN is a network of ten RSPs. The RSPs involve poor communities, mainly but not exclusively rural, in improved management and delivery of basic services through a process of social mobilization. RSPN is a strategic platform for the RSPs, providing them with capacity building support and assisting them in policy advocacy and donor linkages.
-----------
The Adamjee-RSPN partnership started in 2005 – the very first health microinsurance scheme in Pakistan, providing hospitalisation and accident insurance to low-income rural population across the country who have organised themselves into community organisations (COs) fostered by the RSPs.


http://www.socialsecurityextension.org/gimi/gess/ShowWiki.do?wid=752

Riaz Haq said...

Telenor to offer agri info to farers via its wireless telephone network, reports newstribe:

Telenor Pakistan, in partnership with the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, will provide agriculture and livestock information to farmers in the province.

In addition, farmers will be offered the Easypaisa platform to trade in agricultural commodities. Information will be provided via push SMS, voice recordings and small community gatherings.

The aim is to benefit farmers — especially small farmers — by providing them relevant and timely information, and the ability to carry out related mobile transactions on their handsets. All information will be provided by the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa while Telenor Pakistan will act as the distribution channel of the information. A pilot project will initially be run in Mardan district.

To mark the occasion an MoU signing ceremony was arranged at a local hotel. Arbab Muhammad Ayub Jan, Minister for Agriculture, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the chief guest. The MoU was signed by Roar Bjaerum, Vice President Financial Services, Telenor Pakistan and Arbab Muhammad Ayub Jan, Minister for Agriculture, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Roar Bjaerum, in his comments, highlighted the benefits the project will bring to the farmers of the province. “We will provide farmers the information they need to grow better crops and to raise hardy livestock. By doing so, we want to help them make more informed decisions when it comes to agriculture and livestock planning and trading. This way we hope to contribute toward alleviating poverty and empowering farmers economically. We will also offer mobile branchless banking solutions to enable farmers to carry out transactions right on their mobile phones through Easypaisa.”

Ayub Jan in his remarks spoke about the partnership between Telenor Pakistan and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperative Department (ALCD). He said: “The Department has the mandate of promoting the interests of agriculture and livestock farmers in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It has undertaken various initiatives to modernize the sector, and to augment the dissemination of relevant information to farmers to help increase production. Our partnership with Telenor Pakistan is another step in this direction. We are ready to offer all the support it needs to achieve its goals for this project.”

Small farmers, living in far-flung areas, are usually isolated from market information which may help them in dealing with commodity whole sellers (‘beopari’ and ‘arthis). They also do not have immediate access to information about best practices in agriculture and livestock rearing.

Telenor Pakistan’s project will help farmers in getting the information they need to increase yield through access to best quality commodities, latest agri trends, information on judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers, best breed of livestock, new methods of disease control, and quality feed and fodder.


http://www.thenewstribe.com/2012/04/18/telenor-to-partner-with-kp-to-provide-agri-information-to-farmers/

Riaz Haq said...

Citibank Pakistan recognized for corporate responsibility, reports Pak Observer:

Islamabad—Citi Pakistan has been awarded the ‘Best Community Program’ Award for its pioneering work in microfinance and vocational training at the International CSR Awards 2012. This award comes on the heels of two global awards that Citi Pakistan received at the Global CSR Summit and at the Asian CSR Awards in 2011, for its corporate citizenship initiatives in Pakistan. The bank has been focusing its programs on microentrepreneurship for vulnerable groups, including helping female entrepreneurs set up businesses. This is evidenced through the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) program which has been run in association with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) for the past (8) years through an annual grant provided by the Citi Foundation.

Now in 28 countries, CMA promotes the effective role that individual microentrepeneurs have made to the economic sustainability of their families as well as their communities. This year also marks the completion of Citi’s flood relief efforts in Pakistan to provide reconstruction and rehabilitation for affectees of the 2010-11 disaster. ‘This award is a solid recognition of our commitment to responsible finance in the country, particularly through meaningful microfinance and income-generation programs,’ said Aliuddin Ahmed, Acting Citi Country Officer for Pakistan. ‘Our community projects in Pakistan aim to create sustainable small-scale businesses with clear and measurable objectives and good process tools attached to all our social responsibility initiatives.’

The bank has had a continuous presence in Pakistan over the last 50 years and remains fully committed to serving its corporate clients and retail customers in the country, as well as fulfilling its role as a responsible corporate citizen. As it marks its 200thanniversary this year, Citi is considered to be the world’s global bank and a key partner-in-progress by public sector entities, top corporations and MNCs that operate in Pakistan and elsewhere in the region.


http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=153685

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BR story on e-payments in Pakistan:

Moving to a broad-based electronic payments regime offers the developing countries an antidote to issues like financial exclusion, rampant waste and corruption in states social and institutional cash transfers and the incidence of hidden or undocumented economy.

The latest Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR) released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlights just that.

The study has aimed to measure the extent to which countries provide key government payment services on electronic platforms and the underlying factors that affect government e-payments adoption.

The 2011 GEAR included 62 countries, spanning 6 continents, representing approximately 81 percent of global population and 94 percent of global GDP.

The countries have been ranked across 7 categories and 37 indicators.

Pakistan is tied with Indonesia at the 47th spot among the 62 countries studied by the EIU.

The US, the UK and Norway top the list owing to their comprehensive e-payments landscape, strong policies and developed infrastructure.

Nigeria, Uganda and Ukraine are on the bottom of the list, indicating inaction in e-payments adoption.

The study reveals a healthy correlation of rankings with high GDP per capita.

The study links the range and quality of government payment services to a countrys technological infrastructure, enabling policies and strength of social and economic factors.

In fact, it equates an effective and inclusive e-payments system as the core of the "transformational approach" to government.

However, just the prevalence of strong technological infrastructure wouldn cut it; connectivity between government, citizens and businesses is cited as crucial for adoption.

"Submitting a tax return online, swiping an electronic card to pay for a bus journey or even, perhaps, receiving government health and/or social benefits directly in a bank account are now a way of life in many countries.

The ability of governments to offer these services via electronic platforms benefits all parties in the form of reduced costs and increased access," notes the report.

A detailed analysis of Pakistans GEAR profile is revealing.

The country performs well on certain indicators such as income tax payments and refunds, company registration, and automotive tolls and fines.

Pakistan is leading the global average on 10 out of 37 indicators, owing primarily to the policy-level commitment and automation in government organisations like SECP, FBR and SBP.

However, the country fares poorly on indicators dealing with the prevalence of e-payment solutions in social security contributions and public transit payments, deployed technological infrastructure, and business and consumer preference for e-transactions.

The ubiquity of e-payments may be a distant dream in Pakistan, but public sectors commitment and private sectors interest can do wonders together.

The role of the government is important, vis-à-vis issues such as integration of the informal economy and security of the online transactions.

The much-needed critical mass and ecosystem can be created as the branchless, mobile and online banking platforms widen their outreach and more automation for payments at the enterprise and consumer touch points can also be achieved.


http://www.brecorder.com/br-research/44:miscellaneous/2487:e-payments-pakistan-needs-the-ecosystem/?date=2012-05-09

http://corporate.visa.com/_media/2011_GEAR_Study_Final_Report.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BR report of banking developments in Pakistan:

The Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Yaseen Anwar on Wednesday said two more international large banks will start their operations in Pakistan soon.

He was responding to a question at 9th Annual Excellence Awards ceremony organized by CFA Society of Pakistan here.

The SBP Governor said a large Turkish bank will start its operation in Pakistan soon while another international bank is due shortly. He pointed out that the country's foreign exchange reserves have once again increased to over $15 billion.

Earlier, speaking at the ceremony, the SBP governor said the fast growing network of branchless banking agents has reached over 26,000 as of March 31, 2012 and total volumes of transactions have increased to 25.3 million, up 23 percent. Deposits have grown by 18 percent to Rs 594 million.

"This fits well into our Financial Inclusion Strategy." In fact Central Bank mandates should have an expanded mandate to include those sectors of Financial Exclusion. This adds to overall growth of the economy and women should be an important component to this effort.

He said the CFA curriculum places due emphasis on the code of ethics and professional conduct for financial analysts and investment professionals. With the growing number of chartered financial analysts, the markets are expected to be better-off from their high ethical standards and improved knowledge of the financial markets, instruments and associated risks.

He pointed out that the World Bank's country review of Pakistan based on OECD Principles on Corporate Governance (Report on Observance of Standards and Codes) rated Pakistan above average on most of the Principles.' Further, in a survey, the World Bank rated Pakistan as the leader on the robustness of corporate governance standards and practices in South Asia.

On the issue of consumer protection, availability of an effective redressal system adds to the confidence of the financial system and ensures that customers are being served without any discrimination. Consumer protection is primarily based on institutional arrangements that include a formal set of disclosure requirement and addressing grievance mechanisms. Besides, customers also desire proper handling and maintenance of their accounts, and privacy of their personal financial information. For cost effective and quick redressal, SBP has issued necessary guidelines to the banks regarding complaint handling along with institutionalization of the Banking Mohtasib Pakistan.

The State Bank has also taken considerable interest in enhancing the capacity of its own human resource as well as that of the banking sector that is an important element for ensuring the effective implementation of the regulatory requirements.


http://www.brecorder.com/pakistan/banking-a-finance/65732-two-international-banks-to-start-operation-soon-yaseen-.html

Riaz Haq said...

US AID promoting private equity investment in Pakistan's SME sector, reports Express Trib:

..$80 million, earmarked by the Obama administration under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative

Crowding-out of the private sector from credit channels due to reckless government borrowing has provided a unique public relations opportunity to the US. The US has said it will offer loans ranging from $500,000 to $5 million to small and medium sized business in Pakistan, to help the latter expand and create jobs.

In total, $80 million, earmarked by the Obama administration under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, will go towards providing cheaper financing and equity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan.

“The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide up to $24 million for an equity fund, and fund managers will be required to match the requested funding to take the size of each equity fund to at least $45 million,” said Theodore Heisler, the project manager and senior economic growth advisor to USAID.

Heisler said that co-investment was essential in bringing the size of each fund to a level where it can cover operating expenses. The US intends to create at least three funds, but is, as yet, noncommittal to the total number. US authorities are on the lookout for good fund managers, and the availability of quality managers will determine the numbers of the funds, officials have said. During the last fiscal year, the federal government borrowed Rs1.77 trillion to finance the budget deficit. The State Bank of Pakistan has already warned that due to increasing government borrowing, there is little credit available for the private sector to grow.

“Having access to finances is a challenge for SMEs, as there is little equity and debt available for the sector,” said Heisler. “The longer term goal is to help expand the market for private equity investment and provide money that is not available through banks and other international lending agencies,” he added. He said the real job growth potential lies in the SME sector, as the corporate and public sectors cannot create unlimited jobs.

Heisler said each fund will have a 10-12 year lifespan. Individual investment sizes will range from $500,000 to $5 million, but could vary depending upon requirements. The initiative has been modelled on the Polish American Enterprise Fund, which was started with $140 million and has now grown to a multi-billion dollar fund.

Heisler said the US is looking to create a private equity industry in line with global standards, as there is hardly any private equity investment fund in Pakistan. He said the other purpose was fetching foreign investment through co-investment, as investment in Pakistan is dwindling.

The US is currently looking for fund managers who have a successful history, and Heisler said that both local and international fund managers have expressed interest in the project.

To a question whether Pakistani fund managers have expressed reluctance due to doubts over long-term commitment issues with the US, the US embassy replied “we believe there will be substantial interest from local, regional and international investors”.

It further said that “the US government designed the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative after a year of research and consultations with numerous stakeholders, including the Pakistani private sector and regulatory authorities.” It added that USAID will structure the funding to ensure that it is sustainable.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/442469/credit-crunch-as-banks-turn-their-backs-on-private-sector-us-steps-in/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a piece from Venturebeat.com on venture capital in Pakistan:

Naseeb.com was definitely the example that led DFJ and EPlanet to back Rahman’s next venture, the Lahore-based online job portal, rozee.pk, in 2007. That was a time “when everything was turning upside down in Pakistan,” Rahman said. The constitution had been suspended, bomb blasts were a daily occurrence and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. That did not scare the investors who Rahman had bombarded with data on the robustness of Pakistan’s market and the growth projections of his enterprise.
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Venture capital has always been anchored in taking a risk on an individual and an idea, where the probability for success, as Rahman noted, is “super, super low.” And risk is exactly what Pakistan needs to encourage in order to jumpstart investments and the flow of capital.

Capital in Pakistan is frozen in a different era. Banks balk at extending credit to innovative startups, even where contracts guarantee return.

That is what happened to Shakir Husain, CEO and founder of the technology outsourcer Creative Chaos, when he went in to request a $100,000 loan to expand his business

“Put together collateral for $100,000 and we’ll give you this loan,” he was told. When the entrepreneur replied that he had a $1 million contract from a client based in the United States, he was still refused. “Had I been a textile company where I could produce a letter from my client there would have been no problem. Being a software company, they didn’t know how to collateralize that risk.” He eventually self financed.

He also set out, much like Reid Hoffman, to ensure that other aspiring entrepreneurs have access to risk rather than roadblocks. He, along with Rahman and other established Pakistani entrepreneurs, has become an angel investor. This has resulted in some progress.
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The Acumen Fund, a U.S.-based non-profit which uses philanthropic dollars to make venture investments, is one resource for larger amounts of financing. Self-described as a “social venture fund” that promotes “patient capital,” Acumen has invested millions in several Pakistani “social” enterprises, which have proven to effectively serve the social needs of the poorest.

The Kashf Foundation, Pakistan’s second largest private microlender, is Acumen’s best example. Touching nearly 1 million Pakistani women, Kashf has dispensed $100 million in loans and has closed over $36 million in commercial deals with local and international banks.

Pakistan’s “non-social” entrepreneurs require similar and bold backing. They require it, not from the philanthropic or non-profit world, but the private sector. Capital markets cannot be built by anyone else. Nor can Pakistanis build them alone. This is where U.S. venture capitalists can help.

Certainly, firms on Sand Hill Road or Route 128 aren’t in a position to source deals for individual Pakistani entrepreneurs. The levels of financing, which would average around $200,000 to $400,000, would not be worth the exorbitant transaction costs. Pakistan’s weak legal system would require tough term sheets that would be a disadvantage to most Pakistani entrepreneurs. Conducting due diligence, the real value to entrepreneurs, would be a challenge.

What they can do is challenge Pakistani banks and investors to create a Pakistan venture fund that they would then match. There are already several investment firms in Pakistan, such as the Abraaj Capital Group-backed BMA Capital, that could administer the fund. Last year’s announcement by The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a U.S. government agency, approving $455 million in financing to support the establishment of five private equity funds to invest in Middle Eastern companies provides a precedent and model....


http://venturebeat.com/2010/11/16/pakistan-venture-capital/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBM press release in Sacramento Bee on its contract for mobile banking technology in Pakistan:

KARACHI, Pakistan, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that Monet, one of Pakistan's leading mobile-commerce providers, has selected a customized IBM cloud-based solution that will enable the company to enhance service efficiency and expand its presence across the country.

Launched in 2012, Monet provides banks, mobile network operators and branchless banking agents in Pakistan with a technology platform that offers end-users a simple interface through which they can access a wide range of financial services on their mobile phones.

Mobile banking and financial services are expected to grow significantly in Pakistan in the coming years. Increased demand for affordable banking, a lack of traditional banking infrastructure and an aggressive branchless banking mandate from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has driven quick uptake of mobile banking in the country.

With a population of 180 million, a mobile phone penetration of more than 70% and a banked ratio of only 22%, Pakistan offers a large potential market for Mobile Financial Services (MFS). According to an SBP recent branchless banking newsletter, the number of mobile banking accounts was at 1.45 million, showing a growth of 37% during the second quarter of 2012, with new level zero account openings registering a jump of 370%. The existing accounts activity level also improved substantially during the quarter as the number of active accounts increased by 66%.1

To capture this opportunity, Monet chose IBM to develop a unique IT environment allowing the company to offer reliable and efficient services to a growing customer base throughout the country.

"Mobile financial services have reached an inflection point where they have moved from niche to mainstream," said Ali Abbas Sikander, CEO, Monet. "We believe mobile can potentially become the strongest channel for the delivery of financial services. IBM's cloud solution will allow us to reach our clients easily, giving us access to a wider base of customers and ultimately extending the reach of financial services in the country."

IBM will develop a specialized solution based on IBM SmartCloud technology, to deploy Monet's mobile banking applications from Fundamo, a leading mobile financial services platform provider and an IBM partner. The private cloud will allow Monet to save on initial investments in IT and help the company offer more efficient services at a reduced cost.

IBM SmartCloud infrastructure is based on IBM servers, storage and software optimized to meet growing mobile demand. In addition, Monet has outsourced the entire networking, security, cryptographic solutions, and disaster recovery to IBM, in order to focus on its core business.

"Mobile and Cloud are a powerful combination to provide sustainable and affordable banking services to millions of people in Pakistan," said Adnan Siddiqui, CGM, IBM Pakistan and Afghanistan. "IBM has global experience in the financial services sector and a thorough understanding of the local market, and our engagement with Monet is expected to benefit banking customers across the country."..


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/01/4953392/leading-pakistan-mobile-banking.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal piece on health care in Pakistan:

Given the absence of comprehensive public health-care services, a largely unregulated private sector, with hugely disparate services and prices, has sprung up to fill the void. But currently only 0.8% of Pakistan's GDP is allocated to insurance products, including health insurance, according to the country's insurance regulator. Poor patients often end up taking out loans and falling into debt to pay for private-sector services.

To address such needs, Asher Hasan set up Naya Jeevan—"new life" in Urdu—a nonprofit micro-insurance program for the urban poor.

"Everyone should have access to quality health care irrespective of their level of income," said Dr. Hasan, who grew up between Karachi and the U.K. and then moved to the U.S. to study medicine.

Naya Jeevan, one of 12 finalists in The Wall Street Journal's Asian Innovation Awards, offers an insurance program at subsidized rates under a national group health-insurance model. It tied up with large multinational corporations and local companies to offer subsidized health-insurance plans for their low-income and contractual employees as well as the employees' domestic helpers, who are often poor.

Dr. Hasan's sales pitch to these companies was that health is a right and this is a way for the companies to help their low-income employees. For their domestic staff his pitch was: If a maid or a baby sitter of an executive fell ill, it would disrupt that executive's productivity in the office for as long as it took for the problem to be resolved.

But the program is under scrutiny from the country's insurance regulator, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

Mohammed Asif Arif, the insurance division commissioner at the SECP, said that Naya Jeevan is in violation of the country's insurance laws because it isn't registered as a broker and can't legally offer these products. The regulator issued a notice in September to insurance companies reminding them that it is illegal to sell insurance to unregistered entities. (Naya Jeevan buys insurance in bulk at discounted rates from several insurance companies.)

Mr. Asif Arif said his agency would allow Naya Jeevan time to comply with the rules, without offering a specific deadline.
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Dr. Hasan started Naya Jeevan with $75,000 that he won in 2008 in a New York University Social Entrepreneurship competition. Since then he has received funding from the International Labor Organization, USAID, the Asia Foundation, Google/Tides Foundation and J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.36% .

Naya Jeevan has locked in subsidized rates with a handful of Pakistani insurance companies. Under the agreements, it costs a company $1.50 a month per employee to enroll its lower-income employees and home helpers such as janitors, drivers and maids. Of this amount, at least 80% is typically covered by the company and the rest by the employee who is being covered. These employees also can enroll their families in the insurance program, at an additional monthly cost to them of up to $1.50 a person.

If a claim exceeds the amount of an individual policy, the balance of the cost is paid for by the individual's corporate employer. Naya Jeevan says 17,000 people are enrolled in its program.
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"One of the issues in society is that when you send in a low-income person to a gleaming fancy hospital, they may not get treated properly," even though their treatment is covered by the insurance program, Dr. Hasan said. To prevent that, Naya Jeevan works with doctors who can liaise with hospitals on behalf of their patients.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204846304578090713421035962.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PR Newswire on digital money in Pakistan:

Pakistan’s financial services industry is currently on the turn, as digital money is spreading on the back of the fast-paced mobile phone penetration. Working side by side with a range of public and private organisations, the State Bank of Pakistan is involved in creating favourable conditions to promote efficient financial inclusion through a branchless banking model, as well as to enhance payment systems for broader use.

New comprehensive viewport “Digital Money in Pakistan 2013” drawn up by Shift Thought provides an in-depth analysis of Pakistan’s digital money market, within the context of the larger Asia-Pacific region and worldwide trends.

The viewport provides an in-depth overview of how digital money services are developing in the country, focusing on what is driving digital money, the kinds of business models and the adoption and maturity of the market. It also goes into the detail of the needs of various market segments, discusses the whole package of services expected by the sector, delves into the regulatory environment, gives a refined understanding of the local payments system and introduces key categories of the players and partnerships that are forming around the delivery of digital money services. The viewport is supplemented with extensive profiles of multiple industry players as well as of the services launched in the Pakistani digital money market.
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Pakistan is currently undergoing a transformation in financial services, with the spread of Digital Money aided by the rapid penetration of mobile phones.The Reserve Bank of Pakistan is working with several public and private organisations to promote financial inclusion through a branchless banking model by creating an enabling environment for the development os services in the country.

At ShiftThought we work with organisations around the world to shift the thinking from a focus on Mobile Money to planning for the wider set of initiatives we term as Digital Money. Through this Country Series of viewports we share with you findings from our on-going in-depth analysis of the state of play of Digital Money Initiatives in each country, within the context of the larger region and world-wide trends.

Digital Money services are no longer confined to a single industry, and this breaks down traditional models of competitive analysis. Our approach is designed to helps players to understand the strategies and business models coming from industries other than their own, across a range of products and services and from different parts of the world, to distil best practices for building successful brands that provide innovative access to financial services.


http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130211005467/en/Pakistan-Digital-Money-Market-Analyzed-New%C2%A0In-Demand-Viewport

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on increasing e-banking in Pakistan:

The overall value and volume of e-banking transactions throughout the country increased during the second quarter (October to December 2012) to Rs 7.6 trillion (18.02 per cent)and Rs 79.45 (11.31 per cent) million respectively, the State Bank of Pakistan reported on Wednesday.

State Bank of Pakistan’s Payment Systems report for the second quarter of FY13 released today revealed that the branches of 484 banks in Pakistan were added to the Real-Time Online Branches (RTOB) network during the second quarter of the current fiscal year (FY13) and now 94 percent branches are offering online banking services.

Calculating the overall internet banking services across the country, overall 9,896 branches of banks out of 10,523 are offering the service. During the second quarter, the overall value and volume of internet banking transactions had seen an increase in of 18.82 percent and 14.29 percent in the overall value and volume of internet banking from the first quarter of 2012, respectively.

The Payment Systems infrastructure in the country had also seen an increase because of the installation of 245 new Automated Teller Machines at banks around the country. Today, the number of ATMs across Pakistan has reached a total of 6,232. The report further said that ATM transactions had a major share of 61.12 percent in terms of transaction volume with an average value of Rs9,779 per transaction.

The overall e-banking transactions in value terms was 6.27 percent during the second quarter, increasing the value and volume of ATM transactions by 10.33 percent and 10.68 percent respectively in the second quarter as compared to the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

The report also said that over 20.72 million banking cards were issued in the country by the end of December, 2012, witnessing an increase of 5.33 percent in the second quarter compared to the preceding quarter.

Point of Sale (POS) terminals showed a growth of 6.25 per cent and 5.06 per cent in value and volume respectively as compared to the first quarter of the current fiscal year, with value and volume of transactions standing at Rs22.1 billion and Rs4.5 million, respectively, in the second quarter.

The report also pointed out an increase of large-value payments through Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) with 9.46 percent in value and 10.35 percent in volume as compared to the first quarter. The recorded value and volume was Rs42.13 trillion and Rs12.16 billion respectively in the second quarter.

The report also revealed that major portion for the increased number of overall Pakistan Real Time Interbank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM) transactions increased 14.06 percent during the same period, which was contributed by Interbank Funds Transfers (IBFT). Similarly, the value of overall PRISM transactions increased by 14.96 percent due to securities settlement.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/506723/e-banking-transactions-cross-rs7-trillion-state-bank/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Finextra report on mobile money in Pakistan:

A shared mobile money network, built on Visa's Fundamo technology, that can be tapped by banks and telcos is preparing to launch in Pakistan.
Monet - which was set up by the massive Abu Dhabi Group last year - has now secured approval from the State Bank of Pakistan to build its network, which is being offered to local firms planning to launch mobile money services.

Built on Fundamo technology, Monet says its offering will provide a managed service platform, agent management services and bill aggregation services to new financial institutions and network operators interested in entering branchless banking services.

The first clients are Pakistan's sixth largest financial institution, Bank Alfalah, and Warid Telecom, who have teamed up to launch a new brand on the platform.

Monet says that its network will make it cheaper, easier and quicker for firms to tap into Pakistan's huge unbanked market. According to the Pakistan Access to Finance Survey, only 12% of the population has access to formal financial services, yet mobile penetration stands at nearly 70%, says the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that 35% of the country's adult population will be using mobile financial services by 2020.

Ali Abbas Sikander, CEO, Monet, says: "We are building an open and collaborative eco-system which benefits all the stakeholders of the financial services ecosystem in Pakistan. Collaborative mobile financial services, as opposed to bank-led or telco-led deployment, is the paradigm shift which will assist in creating a bigger and less costly enabling environment for the issuers, acquirers and service providers."

Aletha Ling, COO, Fundamo, adds: "The platform allows service providers to think big, start small and scale fast. The result will be an ecosystem that that will support the long term and sustained growth of the Pakistani mobile financial services market."


http://www.finextra.com/News/FullStory.aspx?newsitemid=24626

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on State Bank of Pakistan governor talking about mobile banking:

...The central policy objectives of SBP are to ensure safety, soundness and efficiency of the banking system, and to protect the interest of consumers, he said, adding that since branchless banking is becoming a vital component of the national payment grid, it is prudent for all stakeholders to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to mitigate inherent risks associated with it like access by unauthorised persons or criminals such as hackers, money launderers, terrorist financiers etc.

He said being fully cognisant of the risk factors involved in such unconventional modes of banking, SBP has been proactively monitoring developments and associated risks both at system and entity level in order to take appropriate corrective measures in a timely manner.

The SBP governor said that branchless banking has also proved to be an effective instrument in channelising the government to persons (G2P) payments in trying times like serving internally displaced persons (IDPs), and devastating floods for the last two years. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries are also being served effectively through the same mechanism, he said, adding that In the coming days, this channel is expected to continue playing an important role towards the promotion of financial inclusion and the management of G2P programmes like salaries disbursements, pensions, BISP, Watan Cards, Pakistan Cards and tax collections services, etc. The existing branchless banking deployments can cater to the needs of over 10 million potential beneficiaries of G2P payments in Pakistan, he added.

Anwar said that four branchless banking models including Easy Paisa, Omni, Mobile Cash and Time Pey are fully operational while two are running live pilots. He said that the branchless banking current growth trajectory is expected to get further steeper in the years ahead.

He said that the number of agent network servicing branchless banking customers has reached 42,000. Therefore, the basic financial services can now be accessed in the remotest parts of the country through any of these agents. Approximately 194 million transactions worth Rs 813 billion and more than 2.0 million m-wallets have been opened till date, he said, adding that numbers will improve significantly. The infrastructure of payment systems and branch network is also showing an increasing growth trend, he said adding that the ATMs network has increased to 6,232 whereas branch network has reached 11,600 while 94 percent of our branches are now real time on-line. Similarly, the number of plastic cards has increased to 20 million and the number of POS machines has increased to 34,000 units. This is a significant achievement, and this also demonstrates the opportunity to bring the benefits of this infrastructure to millions of the unbanked population, he added.

While acknowledging that branchless banking has gained critical mass in a short period of time, the SBP governor was of the view that the market has to start shifting transactions from first generational services (person-to-person/bills payments) to second generational services (account-to-account and inter-bank transfer). The players need to expand their product portfolio by offering new products and services for their target market. In my view, this is part of an inevitable evolution which will ensure the long-term sustainable development of the sector, encourage micro savings and help in meeting the demands for inclusive financial services of the target market, he added.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\03\15\story_15-3-2013_pg5_1

Riaz Haq said...

Not long ago, we put out a podcast that asked the question “Would a big bucket of cash really change your life?” That episode looked at whether winning a land lottery in antebellum Georgia significantly altered a given family’s financial future. University of Chicago economist Hoyt Bleakley, who studied that 1832 lottery, told us this:
BLEAKLEY: We see a really huge change in the wealth of the individuals, but we don’t see any difference in human capital. We don’t see that the children are going to school more. If your father won the lottery or lost the lottery the school attendance rates are pretty much the same, the literacy rates are pretty much the same. As we follow those sons into adulthood, their wealth looks the same in a statistical sense. Whether their father won the lottery, lost the lottery, their occupation looks the same. The grandchildren aren’t going to school more, the grandchildren aren’t more literate.

http://freakonomics.com/2013/11/27/fighting-poverty-with-actual-evidence-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/


Now enough of these (cash to the poor) programs are up and running to make a first assessment. Early results are encouraging: giving money away pulls people out of poverty, with or without conditions. Recipients of unconditional cash do not blow it on booze and brothels, as some feared. Households can absorb a surprising amount of cash and put it to good use. But conditional cash transfers still seem to work better when the poor face an array of problems beyond just a shortage of capital.

When Give Directly’s founder, Michael Faye, went to traditional aid donors with his free-money idea, he remembers, “They thought I was smoking crack.” Silicon Valley, though, liked the proposal—perhaps because Give Directly is a bit like a technology start-up challenging traditional ways of doing things (in this case, aid). Google contributed $2.4m; Facebook, $600,000

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21588385-giving-money-directly-poor-people-works-surprisingly-well-it-cannot-deal

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on youth business loans in Pakistan:

With his new financing scheme for the youth, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday unveiled a plan to enable budding entrepreneurs to run their business ventures.
The Youth Business Loans initiative is the government’s delivery of a promise made during the election campaign. “During the election campaign, I witnessed the vigour and enthusiasm that the youth showed, and promised that if voted to power, the PML-N would empower the youth of Pakistan so they can contribute effectively towards the development of the country,” he said at the launch of the scheme.
The chairperson of the prime minister’s Youth Business Loans scheme, Maryam Nawaz, said the aim was to convert young ‘dependents’ into ‘providers’.
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The scheme is designed to provide subsidised financing at eight percent mark-up per annum for 100,000 beneficiaries through National Bank of Pakistan and First Women Bank.
The total mark up rate would be 15 per cent but the government would pay the remaining seven percent on behalf of the applicants.
Those falling in the age group of 21 and 45 years are eligible to apply for loans from Rs100,000 to Rs2,000,000.
Small business loans with a tenure of up to seven years plus one-year grace period and a debt-equity ratio of 90:10 will be disbursed across the country including Gilgit-Baltistan‚ Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Youth will have an eight-year payback period with the first year as a grace period for repayment.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/642764/pm-business-loans-scheme-govt-launches-initiative-to-empower-youth/

Riaz Haq said...

A soft revolution of mobile money in Pakistan: A pathway to financial inclusion

Over the past decade, there has been a rapid expansion of mobile money (m-money) networks in developing countries. These are largely intended to help financial services reach unbanked populations. This innovation has been taken up by cellular mobile companies in Pakistan, in partnership with domestic financial institutions, and thus creating some innovative business models for the use of m-money. While these innovations are a positive step forward for greater financial inclusion in Pakistan, a national strategy is essential to facilitate targeted and coordinated efforts between regulators and the private sector.



The challenge of high financial exclusion

Despite comprehensive financial sector reforms in Pakistan, progress on financial inclusion has been slow. In 2011, only 10% of Pakistan’s adult population had accounts at formal financial institutions (Figure 1). In comparison, 68.5% of the adult population in Sri Lanka had bank accounts, whereas this figure is 39.6% in Bangladesh and 35.2% in India.

Pakistan’s m-money infrastructure has expanded rapidly since the launch of the first domestic initiative in October 2009. This expansion has been promoted by a liberal financial and telecommunications regulatory framework, and active private sector participation. Four out of five cellular mobile companies currently operating in Pakistan have launched m-money systems in partnership with financial institutions. The m-money market volume has reached 153 million annual transactions worth US$ 6.2 billion.

There are two ways through which m-money services are provided in Pakistan. More than 95% of m-money transactions are carried out through mobile banking (m-banking) agents, and the rest are processed directly through customers’ mobile-wallet (m-wallet) accounts, using mobile phones. M-banking agents (retail points) provide the basic infrastructure for Pakistan’s m-money services, whereas customers’ m-wallet accounts currently have a limited role in the m-money services market.

In Pakistan, m-money services can improve access to financial services for the unbanked population, which is something which traditional banking channels have not managed to do. The network of 93,864 m-banking agents against only 10,250 commercial bank branches in the country provides a perspective as to the reach m-money has on the un-banked and poor.

The current high rate of dependence on agents to complete mobile transactions is typical in the initial adoption of m-banking. Moving forward, the importance of m-wallet accounts cannot be neglected. Many financial services including savings, insurance and micro-credit can be delivered through m-wallet accounts, which provide a store of value. As of June 2013, there were only 2.6 million m-wallet accounts, which is not large enough to reduce the high level of financial exclusion in Pakistan. Three new players that started operations in 2013 are relying solely on agent-based m-money services, while neglecting the potential of m-wallet accounts.

https://aric.adb.org/blog/57/a-soft-revolution-of-mobile-money-in-pakistan-a-pathway-to-financial-inclusion

Riaz Haq said...

Less money moves through wireless transfers in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which have smaller populations.

As we report this week, in much of the developing world, mobile money is evolving. Initially just a means of making payments, it’s now becoming a platform for an entire financial-services industry. But one of the world’s biggest and poorest countries has remained immune to the attractions of mobile money. Despite the potential benefits, “the uptake has been limited,” says Graham Wright of MicroSave, a financial-inclusion organisation working in India. “And because of those challenges, the mobile operators are unsure about how much to invest in this business.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity. India has 15 mobile money providers, second only to Nigeria. Of the 904 million mobile subscriptions in India, 371 million (pdf) are in rural areas. Analysts think that mobile money transfers in India could be worth $350 billion annually (paywall) by next year. Yet the state of the industry remains small: Less money moves through wireless transfers in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which have smaller, poorer populations.

So why, despite boasting 15 mobile money services, does India lag so far behind other developing nations?

The simple answer is regulation. India requires mobile operators to work with banks to provide the services. Mobile networks would like instead to have their own agents who can cash out the digital money into hard currency. Much of the infrastructure is already in place, because there are so many locations where customers can top up on airtime. But the mobile operators aren’t allowed to use those sales outlets as financial agents.
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Yet the banks aren’t filling the gap. They have failed to serve rural areas, especially thinly-populated ones. Nor are they particularly keen on sending agents to operate in small villages. A report (pdf, p.31) on financial services for the poor, commissioned by the Reserve Bank of India, called the situation in both rural and urban India “grim,” with 64% of Indians lacking bank accounts. “The business case for providing mobile money services to the unbanked in the most remote rural areas of India is not appealing to banks,” reports the GSM Association (pdf), a trade body of mobile operators.

http://qz.com/222964/why-mobile-money-has-failed-to-take-off-in-india/