Designing credit agent incentives to prevent mission drift in pro-poor microfinance institutions
Credit agents in microfinance institutions (MFIs) must be given incentives to acquire information on potential borrowers and select them in accordance with the MFI's objectives. We show that while giving incentives has no cost in for-profit MFIs, it is costly in pro-poor MFIs: When repayment and wealth are positively correlated, a pro-poor MFI cannot obtain the selection of poor clients in the proportion it wishes with incentives based solely on repayment. It then becomes necessary to audit the share of very poor borrowers selected by an agent in order to provide the latter with adequate incentives. When audit costs are large, pro-poor MFIs may have to forego selection on wealth -- and use other targeting devices such as working in impoverished geographical locations. Driven by donor concerns with 'mission drift' away from the poor, audits on the wealth status of clients have been introduced at the level of MFIs. We show that introducing pro-poor incentives requires extending such audits to the level of credit agents.
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