Andhra village tells US treasury secy about micro-credit

Thursday, 21 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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HYDERABAD: As he stepped into an Andhra Pradesh village Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill got a glimpse of the wonders that micro-credit is working among rural women.

The secretary, who arrived here Wednesday night on a one-day visit, travelled to Shamsabad village, 25 km from here.

He interacted with poor rural women and appreciated the work being done by Share Microfin Limited, a community-owned micro finance institution, to improve their lot.

Women narrated tales of how they had secured credit from the institution and how it had helped them earn a livelihood.

The secretary, who is visiting India to attend the G-20 meeting in New Delhi Friday, was impressed with the entrepreneurial skills of the rural women and the work being done by Share Microfin.

He said he would look into the possibility of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and American banks and institutions funding the micro-credit programme.

"I am very happy to see how micro-credit is changing the lives of these women and making them economically independent. I wish them all the success in these efforts," he told newsmen after his return to Hyderabad.

O'Neill spent about 90 minutes interacting with women and later went around an exhibition-cum-sale of the products manufactured by them.

O'Neill, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill and officials from the treasury department, purchased a couple of decorative products made of plastic from a woman.

"He paid 200 for three pieces," said Kelabai.

The women were just as curious about him as he about them. "Does your country also have the same kind of poverty which our country has?" asked a woman.

Replied O'Neill: "We don't have such a large population. A small section of our population is poor and the government and other NGOs are making efforts to help them."

These were the few words he spoke during the visit to the village.

Immediately after his arrival, O'Neill and other officials had a closed-door interaction with 40 women and the officials of Share Microfin explained to him how the system works.

He later went to a community hall where 500 women turned up to see him. He heard two women narrate their experiences.

Udai Kumar, managing director of Share Microfin Limited (SML), told newsmen the secretary was all praise for the efforts of the institution.

SML, a non-banking financial company established in 1999, has a paid-up capital of 50 million contributed by over 26,000 rural women entrepreneurs. It extends loans to poor women without any collateral security after accessing the same from commercial banks.

It has so far disbursed 1.58 billion. It is operating in 1,752 villages in 16 districts of Andhra Pradesh and caters to 119,032 clients. It is now extending its operations to Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

The company, which charges 15 to 18 percent interest, claims that the recovery rate is 100 percent. "Banks are realising they can make profits by giving money to the poor," he said.
Source: IANS
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