Evaluating the Success of Microfinance NGOs in China / 以“我开”为例,评价小额信贷的非政府组织在中国的成败

Author: Lauren Gloudeman
2012-09-18

Evaluating the Success of Microfinance NGOs in China: The Case of “Wokai”

Poverty in China
As of 2007, 21.5 million of China’s rural population, primarily comprised of residents of northern and western provinces, live below the official “absolute poverty” line (approximately $90 per year); an additional 35.5 million Chinese live between the “absolute poverty” line and the official “low income” line (approximately $125 per year) (CIA World Factbook). According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2011 the Chinese government raised the rural poverty line to an annual per capita net income of roughly $363, leaving 122.38 million rural Chinese in dire need of financial support.
The prevalence of poverty in China’s rural regions presents a jarring contrast to the wealth generated by China’s emergence as a major economic power, primarily visible in its Eastern cities. China’s urbanites earn over 3 times more income annually than their rural counterparts (National Bureau of Statistics of China). This contrast is even more shocking considering that, as of the end of 2011, China’s rural population comprised 51.3% of its total population, whereas urban population only comprised 48.7% (National Bureau of Statistics of China). The tremendous wealth gap in China leaves many rural residents with little to no hope of escaping poverty. In turn, China’s rural regions are faced with a steep obstacle to significant, sustainable development.
What is Microfinance?
While the tasks of contributing to poverty alleviation and minimizing income disparity in rural China are daunting, microfinance institutions, also referred to as MFIs, represent one possible solution. Microfinance refers to a category of financial services offered to those living in low-income situations or those who do not have access to financial services via ordinary channels. According to the prominent microfinance NGO Kiva, microfinance “is also the idea that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services.” That is to say, MFIs empower low-income individuals, whereas traditional financial institutions disregard them.
Often, rural Chinese living in low-income situations only have access to informal financial relationships; for example, one might borrow money from someone else in a given village. Financial institutions generally do not provide services to the poor because “banks have not considered poor people to be a viable market.” (CGAP)           Logically, banks can’t make much money from providing small loans; they benefit most from working with large sums of money. Moreover, the fact that many rural Chinese do not own land contributes to the lack of financial services offered to them by banks; if a borrower has no land, the bank has no collateral to collect, and therefore has no incentive to provide loans to such borrowers (Cerny, “Microfinance: The Untapped Market”). Rural Chinese often do not require large-sum loans to aid in generating income; simultaneously, formal financial institutions are not willing to provide low-income residents with access to smaller loans. In my experience as a translator for the China-based microfinance NGO Wokai, I learned how many borrowers simply need micro-loans to help ease financial burdens like medical care for the elderly or tuition for their children; others needed only purchase some farm animals or energy resources to start their own small businesses. In this way, MFIs bridge the income gap by providing necessary funds in the form of micro-loans to those in need, thereby establishing a sustainable, engaging model for igniting economic improvement in China’s rural regions.
Many MFI models in place mirror what is widely perceived as the first institution of its kind, Grameen Bank. Mohammad Yunus created this MFI in 1976 after he realized that the $27 in his own pocket could be loaned to many poor families in a Bangladesh village, enabling them to start their own small businesses and generate income. Yunus received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts with Grameen Bank, and the organization’s success in poverty alleviation urged more MFIs to emerge internationally. One key element of the Grameen Bank model is that most micro-loan recipients are women. The reasoning behind this structuring is two-fold: for one, as women are often considered the core of the household in that they provide primary care for family members and maintain their homes, thus demonstrating their deep interest in taking out a loan to support their family and locality; secondly, many Chinese rural residents living in poverty must find seasonal work away from home, and therefore may not be able to commit to participating in the micro-loan process.
Another hallmark of microfinance is that interest rates on micro-loans must be very high in order to cover costs of lending such a small sum of money. The CGAP identifies three kinds of costs that MFIs must cover when granting a micro-loan. These costs include costs of the money it lends, costs of the loan defaults, and transaction costs. For example:
“If the cost paid by the MFI for the money it lends is 10%, and it experiences defaults of 1% of the amount lent, then these two costs will total $11 for a loan of $100, and $55 for a loan of $500. An interest rate of 11% of the loan amount thus covers both these costs for either loan… The transaction cost of the $500 loan is not much different from the transaction cost of the $100 loan. Both loans require roughly the same amount of staff time for meeting with the borrower to appraise the loan, processing the loan disbursement and repayments, and follow-up monitoring.” (CGAP)
Microfinance in China
Microfinance in China is a relatively new phenomenon, with the first MFIs emerging during the early 1990s. As microfinance in China developed in the early to mid-2000s, two forms of MFIs took shape, namely, Village and Township Banks (VTBs), and Micro-Credit Companies (MCCs) (China Banking Regulatory Commission). One of the main differences between these two MFIs is that VTBs can provide both loan (amounts ranging from 5,000-500,000RMB) and deposit services, whereas MCCs can only provide loan services (amounts under 5,000RMB). In 2008, MCCs were merged with VTBs “in order to provide incentives for more public financial institutions to take part in developing the rural economy” (Cerny).
In the context of this article, I would like to focus on a third variety of MFI operating in China, NGOs, with particular attention paid to one NGO called Wokai. This non-profit organization is unique in that it was the first peer-to-peer online platform for engaging in microfinance. Its website, launched in 2008, allowed for any user to contribute as little as $20 to funding the loan of a borrower of his or her choice. Users could also track each borrower’s progress in receiving and repaying each micro-loan. When a donation was made, the funds were transferred to a specific field partner of the organization. Field partners in turn transfer the funds in the form of micro-loans to borrowers in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia.
Since its launch, Wokai was able to “fund over 1,500 micro-loans to 961 borrowers, all at an over 98% on-time repayment rate” (wokai.org). Despite these successes, Wokai’s Board of Directors decided to completely close its operations in early May 2012, citing “unexpected funding roadblocks” and lack of a suitable replacement candidate for CEO as the main reasons (wokai.org).
As a volunteer, representative, and leader within Wokai’s Nanjing Chapter over the past 2 years, I have had the opportunity to become familiarized with many aspects of Wokai’s infrastructure. I perceive that its successes can be attributed to the organization of its field partners on the local level, whereas its failure to serve as a sustainable model represents a weakness in small microfinance NGOs generally.
Wokai’s field partners must adhere to strict requirements in order to even be considered for partnership. Said criteria align with international best practice standards, including 95% and above loan repayment rate, offer of training and support services to borrowers, transparent management systems, and the capacity and desire to scale up. Moreover, in choosing a field partner, Wokai staff members perform on-site due diligence, which includes a preliminary and comprehensive visit to the potential field partner site, approval and regular review of the field partner on the part of Wokai’s Microfinance Investment Committee, and semi-annual on-site monitoring to ensure normal operation (wokai.org). I attribute much of Wokai’s success in funding microloans to the local success of its field partners, namely the Association for Rural Development in Yilong (ARDY), Sichan, and the Chifeng Women’s Sustainable Development Association (CFZWSDA) in Inner Mongolia.
How, then, could such a successful microfinance NGO meet its end only 5 years after its creation? The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) offers some explanations. It has been hypothesized that “excessive concern for profit in microfinance will lead MFIs away from poor clients to serve better-off clients who want larger loans.” While this may be true of some MFIs, it is not likely that a non-profit, volunteer-based, service-oriented NGO like Wokai would make such a choice. However, the CGAP allows for the possibility that in cases “where potential clients are extremely poor and risk-averse or live in remote areas with very low population density,” profit may not be enough to sustain the organization; as such, “microfinance may require continuing subsidies.” It’s possible that another downfall of Wokai is that its main headquarters is in the United States, whereas its field partners function within China. An NGO functioning entirely within China might have better luck with creating publicity, corporate partnerships, and a more unified volunteer network. All these factors, in addition to strong relationships with strictly-run field partners, could all contribute to a more sustainable microfinance NGO.
Because of the unique circumstances surrounding Wokai at the time of its shut down, namely that it was unable find a suitable candidate for the position of CEO, it is hard to apply its rise and fall to an evaluation of the future of microfinance in China. Wokai intends to disperse its remaining funding to its field partners in the form of micro-loans over the next 10 years. Though it did not prove to be a sustainable model for microfinance NGOs operating in China, it certainly provided many thousands of poor, rural Chinese entrepreneurs with the opportunity to actively pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. Without a doubt, I am proud to have volunteered with Wokai, and hope in future to further contribute to the cause of microfinance.
Writer: Lauren Gloudeman, Hopkins Nanjing Center Certificate 2011-2012
作者:Lauren Gloudeman
2012-09-18

以“我开”为例,评价小额信贷的非政府组织在中国的成败

中国农村的贫困
截止到2007,中国共有2150万的农村人口——主要集中在中国西北省份——生活在官方确定的“绝对贫困线”之下(收入约为90美元/每年)。另有3550万中国居民处于“绝对贫困线”和“低收入线”之间(收入约为125美元/每年)(CIA世界概况)。根据中国国家统计局发布的消息,2011中国政府提高农村贫困线至人均收入约363美元/每年,这使得12,238万个中国农村居民迫切需要金融支持。
中国农村地区的普遍贫困与中国经济近年的急速发展形成了鲜明的对比,显然这些财富主要集中在东部沿海城市。中国城市居民年收入是农村居民年收入的3倍多(中国国家统计局)。这种对比值得深思。截至2011年底,中国农村人口占总人口的51.3%,城市人口占比只为48.7%(中国国家统计局)。巨大的贫富差距使得中国的许多农村居民几乎没有希望摆脱贫困。反过来,中国农村地区也就面临着一个严峻的可持续发展的考验。
什么是小额信贷?
显然,促进扶贫和减少城乡收入差距对现今中国的经济发展来说至关重要,也迫在眉睫。小额信贷机构,为这一难题的解决提供了一套可行的方案。小额信贷是指,给低收入者,或那些通过正常渠道无法获得金融支持的人提供的一系列金融服务。著名的小额信贷非政府组织(下文直接称NGO)Kiva,认为“小额信贷”是“使低收入个人能够提升自己,摆脱贫困,获得金融服务。”也就是说,小额信贷机构面向低收入的个人,而这些是传统的金融机构不予理会的。
通常,中国农村的低收入个人只能通过非正规金融渠道获得资金。例如,一个村民向同村的另一个村民借钱。金融机构一般不提供服务穷人的业务。因为“银行不是一个适合穷人的市场。”(CGAP)从逻辑上来说,银行是不倾向提供小额贷款的,他们的大部分收益来自大额资金的交易。此外,在中国农村,大部分土地是不能由农民直接抵押的(归集体所有的耕地和宅基地等),这使得中国农村的小额信贷雪上加霜。如果借款人没有土地,银行没有收到抵押品,就更没有激励提机制提供贷款(切尔尼,“小额信贷:未开发的市场”)。中国农村往往是不需要大额贷款援助,而同时,正规金融机构又不愿意向低收入者提供小额贷款。在为小额信贷非政府组织“我开”做翻译的这段时间,我了解到,许多借款人实际上只需要非常小额的贷款来帮助他们解决医疗,养老,教育等经济问题,或者只需要一点资金购买一些家禽家畜或能源资源来开始他们的小生意。小额信贷机构就是用这种方法——提供必要资金给那些需要的小额贷款者,缩小了城乡差距。从而建立一个可持续的体系改善中国农村地区的经济现状。
现行的许多小额贷款机构的经营模式都是参照已被人们普遍认可的第一个此类机构——格莱珉银行。穆罕默德尤努斯先生在1976年创造了这个多边金融机构。他意识到在他口袋里闲置的27美元可以暂借给孟加拉国村庄许多贫困的家庭,使他们能够开始自己的小生意以增加收入。尤努斯先生为格莱珉银行的努力使他获得了2006年度的诺贝尔和平奖。从此,国际上开始呼呼更多的扶贫小额信贷机构的出现。格莱珉银行模式的特点之一是提供的小额贷款最受妇女的青睐。这一背后有两重缘由:首先,妇女往往要保证家庭成员的基本生存,因此,她们会愿意贷款来维持自己的家庭;其次,中国农村贫困男性居民往往在农闲时外出城市打工,常常不能够参与到小额贷款的流程中。
另一个特点是,为了收回成本,小额贷款的利率往往很高。据CGAP的研究,小额贷款在发放时,利息往往包含了三种成本。包括资金贷款成本,贷款违约成本以及交易成本。比如说:
“如果小额贷款机构每贷出一笔数额贷款的资金成本为10%,这样一笔贷款的历史平均违约成本为1%,那么贷款100美元的总利息费用将为11美元的,500美元的贷款的总利息费用为55美元。无论贷款500美元还是100美元交易费用没有太大的差别。都需要大致相同数量的工作人员,占用差不多的开会时间对借款人进行贷款评估,处理贷款支付和偿还的方式,并采取后续行动的监测。”(CGAP)
中国的小额信贷
在中国,小额信贷是近些年才出现的形式——第一家出现在90年代初。但直到20世纪中小额贷款机构才形成规模。其中有两家代表性的企业:村镇银行和小额贷款公司。主要的区别在于,两者都可以提供数额在5千到50万的小额贷款以及存款服务,但只有小额贷款公司能提供金额在5千元以下的贷款服务。2008两家合并。以“鼓励更多的公共金融机构参与发展农村经济”(切尔尼)。
本文,我想介绍第三种形式——各种多边金融机构,非政府组织(NGO)在中国的经营。
以其中一个NGO组织“我开”为例,这个非盈利性组织的独特之处在于:它是第一个利用网络平台从事小额信贷服务的组织。该组织的网站建立于2008年,在网站上任何用户只要捐赠20美元就可以形成一笔贷款(也可以更多)。用户还可以在这个网络平台上跟踪每个借款人的进展,每笔小额贷款偿还情况。用户一旦捐赠,资金便被转移到某个特定区域的伙伴组织中去。再利用区域合作伙伴把这笔转移资金以小额贷款的形式贷给借款人。
自推出以来,“我开”已经成功的“募集了1500笔小额贷款,惠及贷款人961名,并且所有的贷款中按时还款率达到98%”(“我开”官网)。然而尽管取得了这些成绩,“我开”董事会仍决定于2012年5月初完全关闭其在华业务。官网给出的理由是“意想不到的资金障碍”和“缺乏一个合适的首席执行官替代人选”(“我开”官网)。
在过去的两年里,作为一个“我开”南京分会的志愿者,代表人,和领导者,我有机会了解熟悉“我开”的基本运行情况。在我看来,“我开”的成功可以归因于该组织的区域合作伙伴模式。他的失败之处在于小额信贷非政府组织,他的力量是有限的,与地方一级的合作中未能形成一个可持续发展的模式。
“我开”的区域合作伙伴必须坚持严格要求,才能被视为合格的伙伴关系。该标准符合国际最佳合作标准。其中包括包括95%以上的贷款还款率,为借款人提供培训和支持服务,透明的管理系统以及扩大规模的能力和意愿。此外,在选择区域伙伴时,“我开”的工作人员会进行现场尽职调查。其中包括初步综合访问潜在区域伙伴的网站,“我开”的小额信贷投资委员会会批准和定期审查的区域合作的部分,还有半年一次的现场监测以确保项目正常运行(“我开”官网)。我认为“我开”的成功很大一部分归因于将资金发放给当地成功的区域合作伙伴。特别要提到的是四川仪陇的农村发展协会,和内蒙古赤峰的妇女可持续发展协会。
然而是什么让这样一个成功的小额信贷组织在运行了仅仅5年便走到终点?扶贫协商小组(CGAP)给出了一些解释。有这样的一种假说,“过度关注利润将导致贷款资金从穷人的小额贷款向需要更大笔金额的贷款转移。”对一些小额信贷机构来说这可能是真的,但对于一个非营利,非政府组织的志愿服务,如“我开”来说这不可能存在。但是在“潜在客户极为贫困,本身风险厌恶者或者生活在偏远地区,该地区人口密度很低”的情形下,“利润不足以维持组织的基本运行”从而,“小额信贷可能需要额外补贴”。这可能是“我开”不能继续的一个主要原因。另一可能原因是“我开”的总部在美国,而他要在中国开开展区域合作伙伴项目。我想,一个土生土长的中国非政府组织在创建宣传,公司的伙伴关系,和更统一的志愿者网络方面会有更多的优势。只有结合以上所有这些因素,才能有助于更可持续的小额信贷组织。
由于无法找到一个合适的人选担任首席执行官,“我开”在华业务停止。当然也很难用其来评价或推测未来中国的小额信贷。“我开”计划分散其剩余资金交予区域合作伙伴,接下来的10年以小额贷款的形式提供给有需要的贷款人。虽然它并没有被证明是一个可持续的模式,但作为一个在中国的小额信贷非政府组织,无疑给成千上万的穷人提供了帮助,帮助农村贫困人口积极摆脱贫穷的恶性循环。毫无疑问,我很骄傲参与到“我开”组织中。希望今后小额信贷有更好的发展。
作者:Lauren Gloudeman,中美中心证书项目2011-2012
译者:郭菁菁,中美中心证书项目2011-2012

Author: Lauren Gloudeman
2012-09-18

Evaluating the Success of Microfinance NGOs in China: The Case of “Wokai”

Poverty in China

As of 2007, 21.5 million of China’s rural population, primarily comprised of residents of northern and western provinces, live below the official “absolute poverty” line (approximately $90 per year); an additional 35.5 million Chinese live between the “absolute poverty” line and the official “low income” line (approximately $125 per year) (CIA World Factbook). According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2011 the Chinese government raised the rural poverty line to an annual per capita net income of roughly $363, leaving 122.38 million rural Chinese in dire need of financial support.
The prevalence of poverty in China’s rural regions presents a jarring contrast to the wealth generated by China’s emergence as a major economic power, primarily visible in its Eastern cities. China’s urbanites earn over 3 times more income annually than their rural counterparts (National Bureau of Statistics of China). This contrast is even more shocking considering that, as of the end of 2011, China’s rural population comprised 51.3% of its total population, whereas urban population only comprised 48.7% (National Bureau of Statistics of China). The tremendous wealth gap in China leaves many rural residents with little to no hope of escaping poverty. In turn, China’s rural regions are faced with a steep obstacle to significant, sustainable development.

What is Microfinance?

While the tasks of contributing to poverty alleviation and minimizing income disparity in rural China are daunting, microfinance institutions, also referred to as MFIs, represent one possible solution. Microfinance refers to a category of financial services offered to those living in low-income situations or those who do not have access to financial services via ordinary channels. According to the prominent microfinance NGO Kiva, microfinance “is also the idea that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services.” That is to say, MFIs empower low-income individuals, whereas traditional financial institutions disregard them.
Often, rural Chinese living in low-income situations only have access to informal financial relationships; for example, one might borrow money from someone else in a given village. Financial institutions generally do not provide services to the poor because “banks have not considered poor people to be a viable market.” (CGAP) Logically, banks can’t make much money from providing small loans; they benefit most from working with large sums of money. Moreover, the fact that many rural Chinese do not own land contributes to the lack of financial services offered to them by banks; if a borrower has no land, the bank has no collateral to collect, and therefore has no incentive to provide loans to such borrowers (Cerny, “Microfinance: The Untapped Market”). Rural Chinese often do not require large-sum loans to aid in generating income; simultaneously, formal financial institutions are not willing to provide low-income residents with access to smaller loans. In my experience as a translator for the China-based microfinance NGO Wokai, I learned how many borrowers simply need micro-loans to help ease financial burdens like medical care for the elderly or tuition for their children; others needed only purchase some farm animals or energy resources to start their own small businesses. In this way, MFIs bridge the income gap by providing necessary funds in the form of micro-loans to those in need, thereby establishing a sustainable, engaging model for igniting economic improvement in China’s rural regions.
Many MFI models in place mirror what is widely perceived as the first institution of its kind, Grameen Bank. Mohammad Yunus created this MFI in 1976 after he realized that the $27 in his own pocket could be loaned to many poor families in a Bangladesh village, enabling them to start their own small businesses and generate income. Yunus received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts with Grameen Bank, and the organization’s success in poverty alleviation urged more MFIs to emerge internationally. One key element of the Grameen Bank model is that most micro-loan recipients are women. The reasoning behind this structuring is two-fold: for one, as women are often considered the core of the household in that they provide primary care for family members and maintain their homes, thus demonstrating their deep interest in taking out a loan to support their family and locality; secondly, many Chinese rural residents living in poverty must find seasonal work away from home, and therefore may not be able to commit to participating in the micro-loan process.
Another hallmark of microfinance is that interest rates on micro-loans must be very high in order to cover costs of lending such a small sum of money. The CGAP identifies three kinds of costs that MFIs must cover when granting a micro-loan. These costs include costs of the money it lends, costs of the loan defaults, and transaction costs. For example:
“If the cost paid by the MFI for the money it lends is 10%, and it experiences defaults of 1% of the amount lent, then these two costs will total $11 for a loan of $100, and $55 for a loan of $500. An interest rate of 11% of the loan amount thus covers both these costs for either loan… The transaction cost of the $500 loan is not much different from the transaction cost of the $100 loan. Both loans require roughly the same amount of staff time for meeting with the borrower to appraise the loan, processing the loan disbursement and repayments, and follow-up monitoring.” (CGAP)

Microfinance in China

Microfinance in China is a relatively new phenomenon, with the first MFIs emerging during the early 1990s. As microfinance in China developed in the early to mid-2000s, two forms of MFIs took shape, namely, Village and Township Banks (VTBs), and Micro-Credit Companies (MCCs) (China Banking Regulatory Commission). One of the main differences between these two MFIs is that VTBs can provide both loan (amounts ranging from 5,000-500,000RMB) and deposit services, whereas MCCs can only provide loan services (amounts under 5,000RMB). In 2008, MCCs were merged with VTBs “in order to provide incentives for more public financial institutions to take part in developing the rural economy” (Cerny).
In the context of this article, I would like to focus on a third variety of MFI operating in China, NGOs, with particular attention paid to one NGO called Wokai. This non-profit organization is unique in that it was the first peer-to-peer online platform for engaging in microfinance. Its website, launched in 2008, allowed for any user to contribute as little as $20 to funding the loan of a borrower of his or her choice. Users could also track each borrower’s progress in receiving and repaying each micro-loan. When a donation was made, the funds were transferred to a specific field partner of the organization. Field partners in turn transfer the funds in the form of micro-loans to borrowers in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia.
Since its launch, Wokai was able to “fund over 1,500 micro-loans to 961 borrowers, all at an over 98% on-time repayment rate” (wokai.org). Despite these successes, Wokai’s Board of Directors decided to completely close its operations in early May 2012, citing “unexpected funding roadblocks” and lack of a suitable replacement candidate for CEO as the main reasons (wokai.org).
As a volunteer, representative, and leader within Wokai’s Nanjing Chapter over the past 2 years, I have had the opportunity to become familiarized with many aspects of Wokai’s infrastructure. I perceive that its successes can be attributed to the organization of its field partners on the local level, whereas its failure to serve as a sustainable model represents a weakness in small microfinance NGOs generally.

Wokai’s field partners must adhere to strict requirements in order to even be considered for partnership. Said criteria align with international best practice standards, including 95% and above loan repayment rate, offer of training and support services to borrowers, transparent management systems, and the capacity and desire to scale up. Moreover, in choosing a field partner, Wokai staff members perform on-site due diligence, which includes a preliminary and comprehensive visit to the potential field partner site, approval and regular review of the field partner on the part of Wokai’s Microfinance Investment Committee, and semi-annual on-site monitoring to ensure normal operation (wokai.org). I attribute much of Wokai’s success in funding microloans to the local success of its field partners, namely the Association for Rural Development in Yilong (ARDY), Sichan, and the Chifeng Women’s Sustainable Development Association (CFZWSDA) in Inner Mongolia.
How, then, could such a successful microfinance NGO meet its end only 5 years after its creation? The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) offers some explanations. It has been hypothesized that “excessive concern for profit in microfinance will lead MFIs away from poor clients to serve better-off clients who want larger loans.” While this may be true of some MFIs, it is not likely that a non-profit, volunteer-based, service-oriented NGO like Wokai would make such a choice. However, the CGAP allows for the possibility that in cases “where potential clients are extremely poor and risk-averse or live in remote areas with very low population density,” profit may not be enough to sustain the organization; as such, “microfinance may require continuing subsidies.” It’s possible that another downfall of Wokai is that its main headquarters is in the United States, whereas its field partners function within China. An NGO functioning entirely within China might have better luck with creating publicity, corporate partnerships, and a more unified volunteer network. All these factors, in addition to strong relationships with strictly-run field partners, could all contribute to a more sustainable microfinance NGO.

Because of the unique circumstances surrounding Wokai at the time of its shut down, namely that it was unable find a suitable candidate for the position of CEO, it is hard to apply its rise and fall to an evaluation of the future of microfinance in China. Wokai intends to disperse its remaining funding to its field partners in the form of micro-loans over the next 10 years. Though it did not prove to be a sustainable model for microfinance NGOs operating in China, it certainly provided many thousands of poor, rural Chinese entrepreneurs with the opportunity to actively pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. Without a doubt, I am proud to have volunteered with Wokai, and hope in future to further contribute to the cause of microfinance.
Writer: Lauren Gloudeman, Hopkins Nanjing Center Certificate 2011-2012

作者:Lauren Gloudeman
2012-09-18

以“我开”为例,评价小额信贷的非政府组织在中国的成败

中国农村的贫困

截止到2007,中国共有2150万的农村人口——主要集中在中国西北省份——生活在官方确定的“绝对贫困线”之下(收入约为90美元/每年)。另有3550万中国居民处于“绝对贫困线”和“低收入线”之间(收入约为125美元/每年)(CIA世界概况)。根据中国国家统计局发布的消息,2011中国政府提高农村贫困线至人均收入约363美元/每年,这使得12,238万个中国农村居民迫切需要金融支持。
中国农村地区的普遍贫困与中国经济近年的急速发展形成了鲜明的对比,显然这些财富主要集中在东部沿海城市。中国城市居民年收入是农村居民年收入的3倍多(中国国家统计局)。这种对比值得深思。截至2011年底,中国农村人口占总人口的51.3%,城市人口占比只为48.7%(中国国家统计局)。巨大的贫富差距使得中国的许多农村居民几乎没有希望摆脱贫困。反过来,中国农村地区也就面临着一个严峻的可持续发展的考验。
什么是小额信贷?
显然,促进扶贫和减少城乡收入差距对现今中国的经济发展来说至关重要,也迫在眉睫。小额信贷机构,为这一难题的解决提供了一套可行的方案。小额信贷是指,给低收入者,或那些通过正常渠道无法获得金融支持的人提供的一系列金融服务。著名的小额信贷非政府组织(下文直接称NGO)Kiva,认为“小额信贷”是“使低收入个人能够提升自己,摆脱贫困,获得金融服务。”也就是说,小额信贷机构面向低收入的个人,而这些是传统的金融机构不予理会的。
通常,中国农村的低收入个人只能通过非正规金融渠道获得资金。例如,一个村民向同村的另一个村民借钱。金融机构一般不提供服务穷人的业务。因为“银行不是一个适合穷人的市场。”(CGAP)从逻辑上来说,银行是不倾向提供小额贷款的,他们的大部分收益来自大额资金的交易。此外,在中国农村,大部分土地是不能由农民直接抵押的(归集体所有的耕地和宅基地等),这使得中国农村的小额信贷雪上加霜。如果借款人没有土地,银行没有收到抵押品,就更没有激励提机制提供贷款(切尔尼,“小额信贷:未开发的市场”)。中国农村往往是不需要大额贷款援助,而同时,正规金融机构又不愿意向低收入者提供小额贷款。在为小额信贷非政府组织“我开”做翻译的这段时间,我了解到,许多借款人实际上只需要非常小额的贷款来帮助他们解决医疗,养老,教育等经济问题,或者只需要一点资金购买一些家禽家畜或能源资源来开始他们的小生意。小额信贷机构就是用这种方法——提供必要资金给那些需要的小额贷款者,缩小了城乡差距。从而建立一个可持续的体系改善中国农村地区的经济现状。
现行的许多小额贷款机构的经营模式都是参照已被人们普遍认可的第一个此类机构——格莱珉银行。穆罕默德尤努斯先生在1976年创造了这个多边金融机构。他意识到在他口袋里闲置的27美元可以暂借给孟加拉国村庄许多贫困的家庭,使他们能够开始自己的小生意以增加收入。尤努斯先生为格莱珉银行的努力使他获得了2006年度的诺贝尔和平奖。从此,国际上开始呼呼更多的扶贫小额信贷机构的出现。格莱珉银行模式的特点之一是提供的小额贷款最受妇女的青睐。这一背后有两重缘由:首先,妇女往往要保证家庭成员的基本生存,因此,她们会愿意贷款来维持自己的家庭;其次,中国农村贫困男性居民往往在农闲时外出城市打工,常常不能够参与到小额贷款的流程中。
另一个特点是,为了收回成本,小额贷款的利率往往很高。据CGAP的研究,小额贷款在发放时,利息往往包含了三种成本。包括资金贷款成本,贷款违约成本以及交易成本。比如说:
“如果小额贷款机构每贷出一笔数额贷款的资金成本为10%,这样一笔贷款的历史平均违约成本为1%,那么贷款100美元的总利息费用将为11美元的,500美元的贷款的总利息费用为55美元。无论贷款500美元还是100美元交易费用没有太大的差别。都需要大致相同数量的工作人员,占用差不多的开会时间对借款人进行贷款评估,处理贷款支付和偿还的方式,并采取后续行动的监测。”(CGAP)
中国的小额信贷
在中国,小额信贷是近些年才出现的形式——第一家出现在90年代初。但直到20世纪中小额贷款机构才形成规模。其中有两家代表性的企业:村镇银行和小额贷款公司。主要的区别在于,两者都可以提供数额在5千到50万的小额贷款以及存款服务,但只有小额贷款公司能提供金额在5千元以下的贷款服务。2008两家合并。以“鼓励更多的公共金融机构参与发展农村经济”(切尔尼)。
本文,我想介绍第三种形式——各种多边金融机构,非政府组织(NGO)在中国的经营。
以其中一个NGO组织“我开”为例,这个非盈利性组织的独特之处在于:它是第一个利用网络平台从事小额信贷服务的组织。该组织的网站建立于2008年,在网站上任何用户只要捐赠20美元就可以形成一笔贷款(也可以更多)。用户还可以在这个网络平台上跟踪每个借款人的进展,每笔小额贷款偿还情况。用户一旦捐赠,资金便被转移到某个特定区域的伙伴组织中去。再利用区域合作伙伴把这笔转移资金以小额贷款的形式贷给借款人。
自推出以来,“我开”已经成功的“募集了1500笔小额贷款,惠及贷款人961名,并且所有的贷款中按时还款率达到98%”(“我开”官网)。然而尽管取得了这些成绩,“我开”董事会仍决定于2012年5月初完全关闭其在华业务。官网给出的理由是“意想不到的资金障碍”和“缺乏一个合适的首席执行官替代人选”(“我开”官网)。
在过去的两年里,作为一个“我开”南京分会的志愿者,代表人,和领导者,我有机会了解熟悉“我开”的基本运行情况。在我看来,“我开”的成功可以归因于该组织的区域合作伙伴模式。他的失败之处在于小额信贷非政府组织,他的力量是有限的,与地方一级的合作中未能形成一个可持续发展的模式。
“我开”的区域合作伙伴必须坚持严格要求,才能被视为合格的伙伴关系。该标准符合国际最佳合作标准。其中包括包括95%以上的贷款还款率,为借款人提供培训和支持服务,透明的管理系统以及扩大规模的能力和意愿。此外,在选择区域伙伴时,“我开”的工作人员会进行现场尽职调查。其中包括初步综合访问潜在区域伙伴的网站,“我开”的小额信贷投资委员会会批准和定期审查的区域合作的部分,还有半年一次的现场监测以确保项目正常运行(“我开”官网)。我认为“我开”的成功很大一部分归因于将资金发放给当地成功的区域合作伙伴。特别要提到的是四川仪陇的农村发展协会,和内蒙古赤峰的妇女可持续发展协会。
然而是什么让这样一个成功的小额信贷组织在运行了仅仅5年便走到终点?扶贫协商小组(CGAP)给出了一些解释。有这样的一种假说,“过度关注利润将导致贷款资金从穷人的小额贷款向需要更大笔金额的贷款转移。”对一些小额信贷机构来说这可能是真的,但对于一个非营利,非政府组织的志愿服务,如“我开”来说这不可能存在。但是在“潜在客户极为贫困,本身风险厌恶者或者生活在偏远地区,该地区人口密度很低”的情形下,“利润不足以维持组织的基本运行”从而,“小额信贷可能需要额外补贴”。这可能是“我开”不能继续的一个主要原因。另一可能原因是“我开”的总部在美国,而他要在中国开开展区域合作伙伴项目。我想,一个土生土长的中国非政府组织在创建宣传,公司的伙伴关系,和更统一的志愿者网络方面会有更多的优势。只有结合以上所有这些因素,才能有助于更可持续的小额信贷组织。
由于无法找到一个合适的人选担任首席执行官,“我开”在华业务停止。当然也很难用其来评价或推测未来中国的小额信贷。“我开”计划分散其剩余资金交予区域合作伙伴,接下来的10年以小额贷款的形式提供给有需要的贷款人。虽然它并没有被证明是一个可持续的模式,但作为一个在中国的小额信贷非政府组织,无疑给成千上万的穷人提供了帮助,帮助农村贫困人口积极摆脱贫穷的恶性循环。毫无疑问,我很骄傲参与到“我开”组织中。希望今后小额信贷有更好的发展。

作者:Lauren Gloudeman,中美中心证书项目2011-2012
译者:郭菁菁,中美中心证书项目2011-2012