The Asian Institute on Transport Development initiated a dialogue on strengthening trade and communication ties between India and Bangladesh on October 12th, 2009 at the India International Centre in Delhi. Former Speaker of Lok Sabha, Mr. P.A Sangma inaugurated the session and stressed that the two countries must be good neighbors and learn from each other.
After brief presentations about Bangladesh’s progress in Human Development and the Microcredit revolution spurred by Professor Mohammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank there; Dr. Nachiket Mor, President of the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth and Chairman of the IFMR Trust Governing Council, talked about the Indian experience and initiatives in Microcredit, especially the KGFS model.
In the first session, Dr. Baqui Khalily, Executive Director of Bangladesh’s Institute of Microfinance stressed on the poverty reduction goal of microcredit and the achievements of Microfinance institutions in Bangladesh in going beyond Microcredit through offering savings, micro-insurance and conditional cash transfers for various purposes including housing to individual microfinance clients. He reported that the institute’s research has revealed that microfinance has been successful in reaching almost 50% of the rural poor in Bangladesh – which is a momentous achievement indeed.
Their next goal is to study the impact of access to finance in SAARC nations, a project which deserves maximum support as it is extremely difficult, and more importantly, extremely essential for the future of microfinance in the region. Some experiences of Bangladesh he presented – such as moving away from compulsory to flexible saving schemes and the fact that about 70% of Grameen Bank’s equity comes from its members who have representative board members too – were quite interesting and need to be assimilated and understood by us too.
While poverty reduction was being cited as the goal of the Microfinance movement in Bangladesh, Dr. Mor shared the broader vision of ‘Financial well being for all’ with the participants while talking about the KGFS companies, the IFMR Trust Holdings Company-incubated rural financial institutions. Thus, financial access was presented not as a need but as a basic ‘infrastructure, like a road’ that is used by all to travel towards their life-goals. Important ideas such as the wealth management concept, the use of technology and the need for simplified, integrated and personalized financial services were emphasized.
Such sharing of ideas and experience is one of the best ways to forge relationships, and this short dialogue between the neighboring nations was an attempt to do the same. The process re-affirmed what the chair of the panel, Dr. Y.K. Alagh, started the discussion with – the need for thought-makers on either side to participate in dialogues such as these for the improvements these can bring to the lives of people everywhere.
Kirti Rao from the Capital team contributed to this post.