You'll recall in my opening remarks that I made reference to the fact that microfinance for people who are so poor that they're chronically hungry really should be regarded as a social service, in the sense that poor people are engaged in financial transactions generally in the informal sector with relatives, friends, money lenders, shopkeepers. Poor people need to do a large number of financial transactions to smooth their consumption, as the economists would say, so that they have enough money to buy enough food to get through each day.
You hear about people living on $2 a day or $1 a day, but that money doesn't come in on a nice regular payment of $2 a day. It comes in maybe $4 on one day and no dollars for the next three days, and then maybe $6 the following day, and so on. They have a problem of being able to intermediate with other sources of funding to borrow, to save, and to depend on each other's mutual help in order to get by, to stretch their money to make sure they have enough food on the table, if they have a table, every day.
Microfinance for the poor needs to be seen more as building a social infrastructure for social service. The fact that it starts with financial service rather than with health or education is because financial service is something the poor are very accustomed to paying for, and often at a high premium; they're not accustomed to paying for health and education and other such services. As a result, it's difficult to build a delivery infrastructure that's self-sustaining in a private sector sense by focusing on education and health and other such services. It is possible to do it when focusing on financial services.
What this means is that microfinance for poorer people tends not to be a market development or an economic development activity. It's much more about creating the social service infrastructure that can help these people take advantage of whatever economic opportunities are made available by true economic development. You do have a higher-level loan type service generally to what are called SMEs, small and medium enterprises, which in rural areas would be agricultural. There's a value chain between the producers and the consumers. If that value chain is developed, powered by small and medium enterprises, agricultural development, then the poorer elements of that population can tap into that value chain if they've taken care of their basic financial, health, and education needs in order to be able to move away from the margin of survival to actually take advantage of whatever economic opportunities are there.
We should see a distinction between poverty reduction through economic development and poverty alleviation through social service.