|Quelle politique d'épargne dans les systèmes d'épargne-crédit ? Au Cambodge et au Viet-nam, GRET, 1996|
|Where does saving fit into micro-finance systems?|
|Part two: The question of savings in micro-finance systems|
" For mobilising savings
Financing and sustainability
Mobilising savings enables one to aspire to the financial independence of the savings-credit institution. When the initial resource is an external one, the growth of savings should enable the sustainability of the intermediation service to be assured by the end of a project.
In practice things are often more complicated, as although it is desirable to mobilise local resources, this is not enough to ensure the financial viability of the institution, and thus its sustainability. This is a point to which we will return.
This is the theory of "hot money", which is locally collected, compared with "cold money", which comes from outside. It is a question of promoting a sense of appropriation of the credit scheme - or more broadly of the credit system by the beneficiaries. This is one of the most important factors which can influence the sustainability of the system.
It is very common in Africa for members to deposit their savings with a credit scheme in order to avoid the risk of theft or fire in their home.
Protecting the value of one's capital
In an inflationist economy, if the scheme manages to apply positive real rates of interest, the savings function of the scheme may be attractive.
Making one's capital work
This means very simply making a deposit in order to make one's capital grow It is, however rare for the rates applied in micro-finance systems to be sufficiently high to attract speculative deposits.
Building up savings with a view to making an investment
Money regularly deposited with the scheme will be protected from any temptation on the part of the family to spend it and enable a capital -sum to accumulate.
Even in Africa one finds savers behaving in a certain way: they borrow an amount equivalent to the amount of savings they have deposited, asserting that in this way they will make the effort to use the money well, as they have to refund it - family money being spent with less discrimination. In addition, as a result of them thus ending up in debt, they can more easily avoid their family and friends asking them for a loan...
There are also housing savings systems, enabling a capital sum to be built up initially thanks to regular deposits, before a housing loan is obtained.
At macro-economic level
This can mean encouraging the mobilisation of savings by M-F systems through seeking complementarity between micro-finance systems and classic banks.
From this point of view, M-F systems form one component part of monetary policy. Certain analysts maintain that, the mobilisation of internal savings being the means of a more endogenous development, M-F systems, despite their small size, have a genuine role to play in the national financial mechanism.
Macro-economic analysis using the criterion of savings stresses a very high correlation between the rate of growth of a country and the quantity of savings, internal or external, which it has been able to mobilise for its investments. Hence the vicious circle: fall in savings, slowing down of growth, lowering of per capita income, fall in savings.
African countries have a savings rate compared to their GDP of approximately 15%, whereas we nave seen that the same rate reaches 30% in Southeast Asian countries (excepting the Indo-Chinese peninsula).
Increasing this proportion without having too much recourse to external savings - i.e. to public development aid - therefore presupposes that these countries are seeking the financial means of development more from within. Bearing in mind that the banks cannot embark on decentralisation for reasons of financial viability, certain macro-economic analysts therefore believe that one must find the way of making the informal sector gradually change in order to make it contribute more to the financing of the national economy. From this point of view, M-F systems, although they mobilise only a small, even a derisory, proportion of potential internal savings, should serve this macro-economic policy, with banking institutions able to play the part of a central bank for M-F systems.
Most M-F systems are, however, very cautious about becoming closely linked with banks, for fear of being engulfed by them.
" Against mobilising savings
The disadvantages are often overlooked. They exist nevertheless and include:
Additional work and cost
Managing savings generally doubles the time taken for accounting work, for receiving and disbursing the deposit, and for the records required as a whole. This cost is all the greater, the smaller the sums in question. It also increases as a result of the need to maintain a certain level of liquidity in order to be able to meet the demand for withdrawals. These costs have to be passed on to the price of the credit.
We know that seeking autonomy in financial resources through the mobilisation of savings sometimes results in the institution's financial disequilibrium. That is to say that the cost of the remuneration and of the management of savings increases financial costs and staff costs to such an extent that income-generating products are insufficient to cover them.
At macro-economic level
If we take the banking sector in Africa, which is characterised by excessive liquidity, one can argue against the advantage of increasing national savings through M-F system networks.
At micro-economic level
Should one encourage savings, or even impose compulsory savings, when the performance of investments is significantly higher that the remuneration of savings? Would a credit policy enabling leverage effects not be more relevant from an economic point of view?
Not excluding the very poor
The obligation imposed by certain systems to set aside savings in order to be able to obtain a loan tends to bar access to credit for the very poor.