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Financial Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean: Review and Lessons

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  • Ricardo N. Bebczuk

    () (Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales (CEDLAS) - FCE - UNLP)

Abstract

Our study critically surveys financial inclusion in Latin American and Caribbean countries, gauging access to both credit and deposit accounts by poor households. Our review confirms some pieces of conventional wisdom in this area, but challenges some others. Regarding the latter, we claim that (a) Limited financial inclusion does not simply follows from unfair discrimination against the poor, but to a great deal from a low demand for financial services and scarce access for the population at large. In this sense, we argue that supply-side constraints have a second-order importance; (b) Despite the impressive progress of microfinance in recent years, stakeholders should avoid overoptimism, rooted in an apparent over-advertisement of a few successful cases. While a potentially powerful tool to fight poverty, microcredit must be carefully targeted, and granted by highly specialized intermediaries under commercially-oriented criteria; (c) Although financial inclusion is a social matter, the private sector has provided more and better responses than the public sector. Furthermore, these private programs have proven to be quite profitable; (d) Recent experiences in several LAC countries hint that governments can play a decisive role in coordinating financial inclusion initiatives, leading normative changes, and supporting innovative banking outreach strategies without engaging directly in credit allocation; and (e) Governments, donors and intermediaries should make coordinated efforts to assemble microdata and encourage sound impact evaluations comparable across countries and time. A number of policy recommendations emerge from the analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo N. Bebczuk, 2008. "Financial Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean: Review and Lessons," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0068, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
  • Handle: RePEc:dls:wpaper:0068
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thorsten Beck & Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Maria Soledad Martinez Peria, 2008. "Banking Services for Everyone? Barriers to Bank Access and Use around the World," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(3), pages 397-430, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:cml:incocp:7en-06 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. María José Roa García, 2015. "Financial Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean: Access, Usage and Quality," Documentos de Investigación - Research Papers 19, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Latinoamericanos, CEMLA.
    3. Izabela Karpowicz, 2014. "Financial Inclusion, Growth and Inequality; A Model Application to Colombia," IMF Working Papers 14/166, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Izabela Karpowicz, 2016. "Financial Inclusion, Growth and Inequality: A Model Application to Colombia," Journal of Banking and Financial Economics, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 2(6), pages 68-89, June.
    5. Ambrosius, Christian & Cuecuecha, Alfredo, 2016. "Remittances and the Use of Formal and Informal Financial Services," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 80-98.
    6. Acosta, Pablo & Kim, Namsuk & Melzer, Illana & Mendoza, Ronald U. & Thelen, Nina, 2011. "Business and human development in the base of the pyramid: Exploring challenges and opportunities with market heat maps," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 50-60, January.
    7. Ricardo Bebczuk, 2009. "SME Access to Credit in Guatemala and Nicaragua: Challenging Conventional Wisdom with New Evidence," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0080, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    8. Javier Alejo, 2010. "Transición Demográfica y Pobreza en América Latina. Un Análisis de Microsimulaciones," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0108, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    9. María José Roa García, 2013. "Inclusión financiera en América Latina y el Caribe: acceso, uso y calidad," Boletín, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Latinoamericanos, vol. 0(2), pages 121-148, julio-sep.
    10. Maribel Jimenez & Monica Jimenez, 2009. "La Movilidad Intergeneracional del Ingreso: Evidencia para Argentina," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0084, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.

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