Monday, August 17, 2009

Bubble in Microfinance?

From the WSJ:

Today in India, some poor neighborhoods are being "carpet-bombed" with loans, says Rajalaxmi Kamath, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore who studies the issue. In India, microloans outstanding grew 72% in the year ended March 31, 2008, totaling $1.24 billion, according to Sa-Dhan, an industry association in New Delhi.

"We fear a bubble," says Jacques Grivel of the Luxembourg-based Finethic, a $100 million investment fund that focuses on Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, though it has no exposure to India. "Too much money is chasing too few good candidates."

Ex post, many people blame the Fed for not popping the housing bubble. Should the Reserve Bank of India raise interest rates to protect the poor from incoming funding or should they focus more directly on controlling inflation and worrying about the broader state of the economy? To the degree that this extends beyond India's borders, should we look for some global coordination to try to smooth out lending? Who would be the global organization best suited for the purpose? Should we beware of money flowing into microfinance that is not from private philanthropists and the government (i.e. stable donations)? Private equity has been known to move quickly from one lucrative deal to another, in some cases creating currency crises and the like. I have many more questions but no good answers. Thoughts, or additional questions?

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