Posts Tagged ‘trading’

What is microfinance about?

December 6, 2009

Tim Harford writes in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine about Microfinance. He is the author of Dear Undercover Economist.

This is a neat little survey of the field, but left me distinctly disturbed. Now I understood the origins of Microfinance to be affordable small loans to help the underprivileged in poor countries to start the process of lifting themselves, and so contributing to their nation.

Affordable to me describes the whole package. Small sums that are enough to purchase stock for the initial trading of a small business, or loans to households to supply needs. The repayments would be small and might not start for a while. And the interest rate would be very low.

In the UK this is not a new idea and was operated by the Midlands Tallymen, who loaned the money to buy clothing and domestic cottons and linens from sometime in the C19. They would lend about £10 at a time and seek repayments of about ten shillings (half a pound) a week for 21 weeks.

That is dear enough at 5% on a twenty week loan, an APR of about 12.5%, certainly not cheap for the time in question. But it dwarfs and pales beside the figure quoted by Harford from a study of a South African project with charges equivalent to 200%.

No wonder he says that the value of the system is questionable.

In Kenya a savings accunt paid no interest and charged ‘hefty’ fees for withdrawal. That just seems an activity run by sharks.

That is a killer charge; it makes no sense to me if its purpose is to help the less fortunate. But in my research over the banks across the world, and the profit seekers who treat no one with sympathy it is all too familar.

In analysing the new Lending Code I find that Microfinance has become a word for the banking community. But they define a micro-enterprise as a business employing fewer than 10 people and with a turnover or asset total approaching £2million.

That certainly seems small, but Micro?

Actually it is a European Union definition! This suggests some confusion of understanding about the idea, though the effect that the smallest businesses should be treated with more care and responsibility than the bigger ones is a positive approach to the learning curves faced by those developing them.

I wouldn’t want to discourage any of this, but I am sorry to see so much opportunism creeping in.

Perhaps it needs a while longer to settle down into a sound international system.

Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man

 http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

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Bank Charges – What did the Law Lords Say?

November 26, 2009

Mouths appear to have dropped open everywhere at the decision of the law lords on bank charges. Certainly it is difficult to understand on what basis the decision was made.First let us be clear what they – appear, anyway – to have said. This is only that the Office of Fair Trading does not have legal power to investigate value for money.

What they have NOT said is whether the charges were, or were not, value for money. Nor whether the charges were fair or unfair.

Indeed, their decision is correctly being described as a technicality. In other words, no matter what the case itself is about, the manner of conducting either the case, or the matters contributing to the case, were incorrect on procedural grounds. At least their opinion is that it is incorrect in that way.

I am not a law lord; evident as it may already be to you, I want it to be clear!

But I have great difficulty in seeing how the Office of Fair Trading is not empowered to investigate value for money. This has been at the heart of trading rules and laws for as long as recorded history.

From the standards for weights and money itself, to the arcane details of contract, value for money has been at the heart of legislative process. How can fairness be expressed without reference to value for money?

I am not even sure this is in keeping with the new Lending Code!

My advice is to move your accounts away from the big banks. Many of the building societies have much more reasonable approaches. And the Co-op Bank may be another good repository for your current account. Certainly you are going to have to spend time and though reading the terms and conditions.

Perhaps we should look to a funny little comment by a correspondent on TV tonight. This was to the effect that the cost to the banks would be billions of pounds, and that was concerning the highest ranks of government.

Perhaps once again we are seeing the unreasoned triumph of the banks over the people. Welcome to the new feudalism.

A very saddened  Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man

Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

http:www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk