The Design of Successful Rural Financial Intermediaries: Evidence from Indonesia
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. ESO (Economics and Sociology Occasional Paper). No. 2059
This paper examines the high degree of success of several systems of rural financial intermediaries in Indonesia, in terms both of self-sustainability and outreach. These systems have provided credit and deposit services, profitably and at low transaction costs, to large numbers of very small individual clients. This generalized success reflects both a hospitable environment for financial intermediation and, particularly, the elements of an effective organizational design, in reflection of an underlying concern with institutional viability. This design bas provided both the incentives and opportunities for successful behavior. The provision of financial services to marginal clientele depends on the solution of the paradox resulting from those agents with inexpensive access to information and monitoring mechanisms not having enough resources or being too risk averse to locally provide sufficient credit, while those with the resources have no access to the required information and contract enforcement tools. Regulatory constraints may make this situation worse. The design of Indonesian locally-operated financial institutions offers a solution to this paradox. Character-based lending that relies on local agents is comparatively inexpensive. With the recruitment of local agents for lending, however, the information/enforcement problem becomes an agency problem. In Indonesia, the solution has been a system of compatible incentives (performance-based remunerations and efficiency wages), coupled with the verification of profits. In practice, managers have been made co-owners. This requires that managers possess discretionary powers over performance-relevant variables. Thus, no loan targeting exists and financial policies, while not uniform, have been adequate to protect institutional viability. The one-time subsidies implicit in seed capital and start-up loans to these intermediaries have not created dependency on outside funds, while the extent of the interventions bas been proportional to the magnitude of the problems to be solved, rather than being massive undertakings with large fixed-cost structures. Gradual growth, by trial and error, bas been a good approach to institution building. These organizations have been credibly committed to collect loans, while borrowers have pledged their (valuable) reputation as collateral. Traditional hierarchical structures (village chief) have been used for contract enforcement. The chief may also be operating as an indigenous credit rating agency. The lessons learned in Indonesia shed light on successful institution building elsewhere.