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Local Group Provides Banking for Some of World's Poorest

June 23, 2008

Cambridge, MA - People living on as little as $2 a day could soon have access to services like loans and savings accounts, thanks to a local humanitarian aid group. Mercy Corps has received a grant of almost $20 million to create what it calls a "Bank of Banks." The project will oversee thousands of microfinance institutions (MFIs) that give loans to families and small businesses in Indonesia.

Sasha Muensch, Mercy Corps' senior program manager for social innovations, says the goal of the program is to modernize the MFIs, and help people manage and save their money.

"These services are not accessible to many of the poor of the country, much the way it is in the U.S. - if you don't have good credit, or a strong enough income, you can't access many banking services here. The problem is even more acute in Indonesia."

Muensch explains the loans can help launch or sustain businesses in places, such as Indonesia, with struggling economies.

"Most of these loans are for very small businesses. They're usually run by the family, one or two people working in them. These are small shops, tailors, hairdressers, small-scale producers, the 'bottom rung' of the business sector."

Through its social innovations programs, Mercy Corps hopes to help 45 million people escape poverty in Indonesia and the Philippines over the next decade. The grant is from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. More information about the new "Bank of Banks" is available online at www.mercycorps.org.

Kevin Clay/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MA