Last week, as its football team was preparing for its match with the Netherlands, Mexico hosted the International Forum for Financial Inclusion. It was an important event, opened by the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and attended by such notables as Christine Lagarde. By all accounts, it was an excellent meeting where representatives of financial regulators from around the world shared their experiences and strategies to promote financial inclusion in their countries.
But one thing stood out.
Last week, MFIN, received official recognition from the Reserve Bank of India as a Self-Regulatory Organization in charge of regulating the activities of its members. This is the first time a financial organization received such official recognition in the country. Indeed, I'm not aware of any other countries that have a similar arrangement, so this may well be a global milestone as well.
This is a big deal that bodes well for the future development of the Indian microfinance sector. It also reminded me of an article co-authored by M-CRIL's Sanjay Sinha and myself back in January 2010, nearly a year before the onslought of the Andhra Pradesh crisis. MFIN had been formed just months before, and had developed a Code of Conduct that included many important features, including strong limits to multiple lending - a maximum of 3 concurrent loans or combined amount of 50,000 rupees (~€750 at the time). However, we felt that as a purely self-regulatory institution, MFIN lacked the teeth to effectively monitor its members, and we made the case for a system quite similar to the one that's just been implemented in India. I look forward to seeing it thrive and set an example for others.
Recently, I was reading the Economist and came across Charles Keating's obituary. That name means little to most readers outside the US, but for me it reminded of an idea that's been percolating in my mind for quite some time now: while rich countries offer valuable lessons for microfinance regulation, those lessons alone won't be enough.