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Why Doesn't Microfinance Work? : The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism [Paperback]

Milford Bateman
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Jun 2010 1848133324 978-1848133327 1
Over the last thirty years or so, microfinance has risen to become one of the most high-profile policies to address poverty and under-development in developing and transition countries. It is beloved of rock stars, royalty, movie stars, high-profile politicians and 'trouble-shooting' economists. Its most famous pioneer, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. In this provocative and controversial analysis, Milford Bateman reveals that microfinance doesn't actually work. That, in fact, the case for it has largely been built on a desire to advance a particular free market ideology, on hype and egregious half-truths, and - latterly - on the Wall Street-style greed, deception and individual self-interest of those promoting and working in microfinance. Using a multitude of case studies from across the globe - from India to Cambodia, Bolivia to Uganda, Serbia to Mexico amongst many others - he exposes why many of its most fundamental building blocks are largely myths. In doing so, he demonstrates that microfinance actually constitutes a major barrier to sustainable economic and social development, and thus also to sustainable poverty reduction. As developing and transition countries attempt to repair the devastation wrought by the global financial crisis, Bateman argues forcefully that the role of microfinance in development policy needs to be urgently and fundamentally reconsidered.

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Why Doesn't Microfinance Work? : The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism + Banker to the Poor: The Story of the Grameen Bank + Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd.; 1 edition (10 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848133324
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848133327
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 565,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Microfinance has been so successfully hyped to the general public that people with no experience in development will ask me (upon finding out about my background in development): Oh, you must really be excited about microfinance?! Instead of going into a long story, I can now refer them to Milford Bateman's comprehensive survey and exposé of the microfinance business. When so much of the finite aid resources are diverted into such feel-good programs with little, if any, developmental impact, then the whole fad becomes something of an anti-development trap. For some time, there has been fragmented evidence that microcredit is way over-hyped as an instrument of development, but Bateman pulls it all together and connects the microfinance fad with the underlying neoliberal themes of so much official development assistance. It's a timely, much-needed, and must-read book for anyone interested in the problems of development assistance. --David Ellerman, author of Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance.

Microfinance has suffered too long from unthinking enthusiasm, but some negative views are beginning to make themselves heard. Bateman is the first, however, to examine microfinance critically and coherently as a whole, and to take a sceptical long term view of its social and economic effects. Few readers will agree with everything he writes, but anyone who has any connection with microfinance should read this book. It should make us all think more clearly about what we are doing. --Malcolm Harper, Cranfield School of Management

DO NOT READ THIS BOOK - if you wish to retain the myths attached to microfinance rather than enjoy and appreciate the best available scholarly, reasoned and readable critique. --Ben Fine, SOAS

About the Author

Milford Bateman is a freelance consultant specialising in local economic development policy, particularly in relation to the Western Balkans. He has worked as a consultant for most of the major international development agencies and for several of the major international NGOs. He is also currently a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Juraj Dobrila at Pula, Croatia.

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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst development book I have ever read 2 Mar 2012
By RACC
Format:Paperback
I bought this book because I have read many books about microfinance which state both its good and bad points and I thought this would be another interesting one to help build my knowledge. I was wrong

Firstly, there is no acknowledgement by Bateman that there are any good points to microfinance - he rubbishes it all the way through. While this in itself would not be a problem if there was relevant evidence to back it up would be fine, I may not always agree but I could respect his opinion. Instead, however, he tries to link tenuous evidence to peripheral elements of microfinance. It is easy to bash any system, project, product etc and it takes very little thought or research to find exampes of where it has failed. This does not mean that the concept is wrong. And this is where the book and Bateman's arguments really fall down.

He claims that microfinance is a terrible thing and uses tenuous arguments to prove his points, however, he is unable to rubbish the concept totally. This leads him to fail to come up with acceptable solutions to poverty reduction relying instead on regurgitating the ideas about providing the poor with aid etc which were discredited decades ago.

Ultimately, Bateman does not have an argument to put forward, or at least not one which is worth reading about. He clearly has a very strong left wing political stance which would not be a bad thing if he could apply logic, informed prose and new ideas. Sadly he cannot.

Rather than reviewing one of many pro-poor initiatives, he tries to destroy it due to his set of political beliefs which is ultimately a pretty despicable approach to take to poverty alleviation.

I have never used the word 'trash' in a review before but I really have no better word to describe this book. IT IS TRASH
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weak empirical support 1 Oct 2010
By Maceo Eric Culberson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book has a weak empirical basis for its attack on microfinance. A more recent text by Lamia Karim does a much better job of demonstrating the reasons microfinance, particularly in Bangladesh, has not lived up to expectations.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why Doesn't Microfinance Work?: The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism 29 Mar 2011
By Paul L. Sparks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is less a thoughtful analysis of the microfinance industry and more an all out assault on it. While many of the view expressed by Bateman are based on valid insight, he pushes the argument past what can be reasonably concluded from the evidence presented. Bateman nitpicks his cases to illustrate his points and thus does not adequately review a representative sample of microfinance outcomes. The deepest fallacy of the book is the assumption of a zero-sum game in aid funding. In essence, he argues that funds directed toward microfinance draw money away from more productive development activities. The evidence supporting this claim is dubious. It should not be assumed that taking money away from microfinance projects would make it available for other types of development work. That said, the book is worth reading if you work in the field or have only heard the positive spin on the subject in the past.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous, well written, and informative 29 Dec 2010
By Elbow Patch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is refreshing to see that there are still writers and publishing companies out there that are willing to challenge fashionable trends. Microfinance as a model for economic development has become very fashionable, particularly among Western developed nations. This is, in part, because it was held to be a kind of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" model of economic development in poor countries. This means reducing government subsidies and letting the market take care of things--a key economic principle in free-market, neoliberal ideology. Milford Bateman does an excellent job of demonstrating how the core mission of microfinance institutions (MFIs) shifted from poverty reduction to profit maximization as part of the neoliberal movement in the banking industry starting in the 1990s. As we have seen from the Mexican peso crisis, the East Asian crisis, and the Russian Ruble crisis in the late 1990s and the banking crisis of 2008, the results of neoliberal financial market deregulation have been disastrous. Microfinance is no exception. Bateman's book is accessible, informative and an crucial resource for anyone interested in microfinance or economic development. Highly recommended.
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