Microcredit is one of those brilliant ideas which is at once simple and revolutionary. As many as 100 million people have had their lives made better through loans of very small amounts of money (about 90% of which are paid back). We looked at other forms of microfinance last year, but it's definitely worth revisiting the idea. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development hosts a new article exploring the idea of "micro-insurance" (making insurance protection available to those in poverty) and the need to make remittance transactions less onerous and expensive. These ideas make a huge amount of sense, would be relatively cheap and easy for microfinance institutions to carry out, and would make a huge difference in millions of lives.
It could make a great difference if poor people were given access to insurance, says Dr Johan Bastiaensen, an expert on microfinance at the department of development policy at the University of Antwerp. "Theft or a minor illness can be a life threatening accident for someone struggling to make ends meet," he told IPS. "Insurance is arguably the most wanted financial product in developing countries."
Funds transferred by migrants to families back home are a vast, reliable and useful income for developing countries, he says. They exceed the level of official development aid (ODA), which stood at $ 68 billion in 2003.
International money transfer agencies like Western Union and Money Gram provide quick and reliable transfers, but charge a juicy commission. "It is one of the most blatant injustices in today's world that poor immigrants need to pay a 15 to 20 percent commission on remittances to their families back home," Bastiaensen argues.