In the words of NABARD, “internal savings mobilized by its members is the core of the SHG”. Banks size their loans to SHGs as a multiple of the savings accumulated. Strangely though, it is not routine for banks to verify SHG balance sheets before lending. Few SHGs try to balance their books, and even fewer have provisions for audits.
In the SHG-bank linkage model, the size of bank loans is determined by the size of the SHG corpus, more than by any other single factor. As a result, SHGs face very strong systemic incentives to neglect errors that overstate their collective savings or understate losses.
In view of the highly risky nature of saving in the informal sector, it is probably necessary to think more about helping clients understand the relative risk of saving in these semi-formal institutions. It should also be noted that the evidence from this study suggests that poor people do value some form of external accountability.
There are no magic formulas for designing appropriate savings products for poor people: it requires market research and careful, systematic product development. But the rewards for the Microfinance Institutions that undertake these exercises in terms of profits and client loyalty can be remarkable, and well worth the investment.
Relative risk to the savings of the poor in Uttar Pradesh
In order to understand how poor people save and the relative risks involved, MicroSave conducted a study in three different Indian states – Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu this past year. This report focuses on Uttar Pradesh.