It can be concluded the Russia-Tajikistan corridor offers some interesting insights on how one might link financial products to remittance flows, but it also provides insights on the basic challenges accounting for why no significant scale has yet been reached.
The potential seems huge to make use of a promising mix of (i) people on both ends of the remittance corridor being in regular contact with banks; (ii) most of the senders and receivers still being unbanked; (iii) the banks having detailed records of remittance clients’ financial flows; and (iv) intense and growing competition among banks, which has led to declining fees for customers to remit money.
The payments sector in Russia has over recent years been at the forefront of innovation. The hope is that new developments will lead to an easily accessible and interoperable payment system that combines the advantages of various channels.
As part of our efforts to promote branchless banking as a way of reducing the cost and expanding the reach of financial services, the Technology Program monitors the uptake of branchless banking around the world.
Just as the dust settled after a controversial entrance of new players in the Russian microfinance sector about a year ago – those claiming themselves to be ”microfinance organizations” and yet charging 730% interest per annum, another “innovative microfinance” product has totally shocked visitors of the Russian Post, as reflected in a multitude of blogs and in numerous media articles published in recent weeks.
The exorbitant interest rates offered by so-called “microlending” companies (who look much more like payday lenders or garden variety loan sharks) to clients of the Russian Post recently gave rise to a wave of indignation on the part of the public, government, mass media and the responsible microfinance industry.
The situation in Russia and other countries is now leading us to want to revisit each of these factors, “deconstructing” the concept of “sustainable” interest rates and review factors, to see if this process sheds some light on whether any given interest rate can be considered responsible.
I’ve been intrigued to see several recent new stories spouting off about the grandiose vision of a cashless society. To a certain extent I thought we had moved past this debate. While recognizing it as desirable, this high and mighty goal seems somewhat unattainable, at least in the short to medium term.