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Women bankers launch global network to push microfinancing.

NEW YORK, April 9 Kyodo

Bankers aiming to provide financial services to poor people in rural areas around the world on Monday met in New York to launch an informal global network in so-called ''microfinancing.''

The ''Global Network for Banking Innovation in Microfinance'' is

sponsored by Women's World Banking (WWB), a New York based not-for-profit organization assisting women entrepreneurs.

''Poor entrepreneurs are less risky, more reliable clients than the rich,'' Nancy Barry, the WWB chief executive officer, told representatives of 22 financial institutions gathered in New York to launch the program.

According to the WWB, the 16 retail-level financial institutions from 13 countries joining the network -- most of them in Asia and Latin America -- have extended $6.9 billion in ''microloans'' to 8.2 million clients, most of them poor people in rural areas who need seed money to start a business.

''The GNBI network is rooted in the belief that unless you persuade mainstream banking to get involved in microfinance you won't reach the 500 million people who need access to financial services,'' Barry said.

The Asian financial institutions that have signed up for the GNBI program: Delta Life Insurance of Bangladesh, SEWA Bank of India, Bank Dagang Bali and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) of Indonesia, and Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and Government Savings Bank (GSB) of Thailand.

GSB Director General Charnchai Musignisarkorn said his bank, which ranks fifth in amount of deposits nationwide, sought assistance from Thailand's Finance Ministry in marketing life insurance policies for poor people in rural areas at cheaper rates than other companies.

Charnchai said GSB had seen a 55.98% increase in the number of policies sold over the past year -- totaling $443.31 million -- and he anticipated a substantial increase in market share from the current 5.6% level over the next four to five years.

Microfinancing can provide a springboard for clients to apply for larger, more sophisticated loans, said Wayan Alit Antara, managing director of BRI, which developed out of a government-sponsored program to increase rice production in the 1970s and now offers small commercial loans and regular banking services to people in villages.

''Some of them -- around 10% -- have graduated to bigger loans,'' Wayan said, noting that BRI's loans have returned a profit every year with a loan repayment percentage of 98%.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Apr 16, 2001
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