Distant voices: the views of the field workers of NGOs in Bangladesh on microcredit
Recently, microcredit has become a fashionable cure-all for most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh. The provision of services to the poor is by definition always difficult, and even NGOs have problems. NGOs in Bangladesh define the poor in different ways when creating their target groups. The policies of nearly all NGOs in Bangladesh are formulated by their senior managers, and field workers are rarely consulted. This paper will explore the opinions on microcredit of selected field workers of four types of NGOs in Bangladesh – on how the problem of microcredit might be solved. Problems of microcredit programmes, they say, include non-accessibility to the poorest, low return, misuse and overemphasis on repayment. Field workers discuss what level of importance should be given to microcredit as against services like education, health or awareness creation. Most conclude that NGOs are overemphasizing microcredit, which leaves little time and few resources for other problems of the poor, so bringing the whole ‘development’ effort of the NGOs into question. Most field workers think that many microenterprises are not sustainable and that in many cases clients will remain dependent on the NGOs for credit.