In July, CGAP highlighted the exceptional leadership of Shafiqual Choudhury of ASA, our network member in Bangladesh. He played a leading role in averting a microfinance crisis threatening the country, similar to ones that affected Nicaragua, Morocco and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 2007, Shafiqual Haque Choudhury, the founder and president of ASA, one of the largest MFIs, remarked, “Excessive lending into a saturated market could cause a ‘train crash’ that might cause great sector-wide damage and burden borrowers with debts they did not need.”
Choudhury took a straightforward view, “if borrowers take too many loans they will run into repayment problems, and would stop repaying me or someone else.”
Instead, each MFI slowed growth in its own way. . .ASA was the first big MFI to take unilateral action.
Bangladesh was fortunate to avoid a descent into an unpredictable or spiraling deterioration. MFIs may have avoided a crisis for themselves by putting their own houses in order, but where does that leave their clients? As the market expanded rapidly in the high-growth period, were clients dangerously over-indebted?
Shafiqual Choudhury of ASA, who had been among the most vocal in warning of the dangers to clients of over indebtedness now says that “the train crash was avoided.” On the whole, the evidence from our household interviews in early 2013 supports this conclusion.