Indonesia’s Microfinance Industry Faces Overwhelming Demand

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A tattooed man briefly interrupted Wastiri as he ducked into her roadside stall, taking a seat alongside the slow-moving traffic that crawled down the narrow Tanjung Priok street. She flashed him a smile as he greeted her, beaming wide and toothless from her perch atop a worn wooden bench.

Colorful bags of instant noodles and potato chips lined the walls of Wastiri’s stall — a tiny plastic-covered shop sandwiched between a ramshackle noodle stand and a large commercial bank in North Jakarta’s roughhewn portside neighborhood.

For some 40 years this stall has been the source of Wastiri’s livelihood, she explained. In that time the woman, now more than 80, has become something of an institution. Customers call her “Emak” (Mother) as they stop by to ask what she has in stock, peering into her small store as they walk down the street.

The bank next door hasn’t been as reliable, she said.

“I would like to borrow from banks, as it is cheaper to do so, but their requirements are complicated,” she complained. “They ask me for an identification card [which I have], but I do not have a family card or the deed to my home for collateral. I don’t own the place.”

For Wastiri, and millions of other low-income Indonesians, the nation’s commercial banking system is a closed door. While lenders like Bank Rakyat Indonesia offer low-cost microloans, lending regulations — which require customers to have proof of a permanent job, income and collateral — shut out the majority of Indonesia’s laborers.

Source: The Jakarta Globe (link opens in a new window)