In early 2004, Grameen field staff began using revised guidelines to determine whether applicant households qualified as poor enough to become members (that is, eligible to borrow from the bank). The new guidelines maintain the focus on land and asset ownership that has always characterised Grameen’s means test (and been copied by most MFIs in Bangladesh). However, the new wording strengthens these rules by clarifying some ambiguities in their interpretation, and amplifies them by adding a note on the kinds of people who should be prioritised in the search for new members and who should not be considered for membership. This note explains the intricacies of these new guidelines and offers three criticisms of the new methodology: 1) the specified levels are set too low, resulting in too restricted a pool of eligible applicants; 2) they are in practice unworkable, leading field workers to find ways around them; and 3) they represent a missed opportunity to construct a useful database on membership.

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