Published:  12:00 AM, 14 March 2017

Bankers' myopic approach to women and marginalized entrepreneurs


There have been complaints about the country's banking sector that most of the banks are not interested enough to pay loans to women entrepreneurs. According to reports by some newspapers, loans disbursed to women are very insufficient which are no how helpful for their business enterprises. In light of recent assessments, women entrepreneurs have received loans of just 5 thousand 345 crore taka. Lack of financial support is discouraging many women to proceed with their business efforts.

Women are a vital part of our country's total human resource. That's why the country cannot secure expected level of development without participation of women in commercial activities. According to some women entrepreneurs, some bankers are not willing to put confidence on businesswomen which is why enough loans are not being disbursed for women. This is a point linked with those bankers' approach and mindset.

Even central bank has issued a number of directives to commercial banks to encourage women by paying them required loans but still the scenario is not improving as far as loans for women are concerned. As a result grievances from women entrepreneurs are increasing.

Recently we have celebrated International Women's Day with colorful rallies, rhetoric, discussions, and felicitations and so on but the commitments we expressed regarding women's emancipation don't come on equal terms with our practical attitude towards women, particularly those women who want to stand on their own feet by doing jobs or business. Just speaking out flowery words is not enough for liberating women. We need to prove our earnest support for women through materializing our pledges for women's advancement.

People belonging to religious minorities don't get enough loans either. Entrepreneurs from religious minorities are ignored in terms of loan disbursement in small and medium enterprises (SME), industrial loans, agricultural loans, home loans, loans for self-employed people, cattle farmers, poultry workers etc. People from indigenous tribes and ethnic groups are not receiving adequate loans either.

Our government should constitute a special commission or agency to trace out cornered people from indigenous groups, ethnic minorities and marginalized masses who need exclusive assistance from the state for going ahead with their business initiatives.

At the same time, another point needs to be noted that some people around us who are living on lower earnings are also deprived of monetary cooperation from banks. If we look around keenly, we can easily spot small tea stalls and tiny stores all over big cities.

 There are thousands of branches of different banks across our country whereas not a single bank is interested to provide any sort of financial support to these small businessmen. There are thousands of motorcyclists all over the country specially in rural areas who carry passengers from one place to another crossing several kilometers. They need money when they have to repair their motorbikes.

 They take money as loans from local moneylenders on high interest but no bank has ever approached these motorcyclists to take care of their monetary problems. Our bankers have no concern for the underprivileged fishermen, peasants and workers of our country whereas big shots are taking away mammoth amounts of money from banks without scrutiny. As a result villagers take loans from rich people or micro-finance agencies of countryside areas on exorbitant interest rates. 

Our bankers are too fond of associating with affluent customers. They don't have time to look into the shortcomings of impoverished masses. This is a glaring discrimination between rich and poor classes in our country. Bankers are expected to explore less developed areas and furnish monetary support to those areas' people so that they can speed up their economic progress.

But unfortunately our bankers don't have this kind of generosity. We often find banks setting up branches in developed areas whereas there are very few branches in less prosperous regions. This is a deprivation for the people who live in financially insolvent towns and villages.

The banks of our country are always busy buttering up wealthy clients. People who are suffering from poverty have almost no access to our banks. But right after independence our banking sector worked with a much broader outlook which facilitated the rise of garment industries, pharmaceuticals, plastic manufacturers, food producers etc. We recall these contributions by the banking sector with honor but the current circumference shows that our banks have moved away from that philanthropic standpoint.

Their services now can only be availed by top class businessmen and industrialists. Bankers of present time cannot think about anything other than larger loans equal to millions or billions. A huge portion of these large loan borrowers have in the meantime defaulted their loans. They did not pay back the borrowed money.

Their defaulted loans were rescheduled and restructured again and again but still the defaulted amounts could not be recovered. It refers to a disordered and uncontrolled phenomenon currently prevailing in our financial sector. Some unscrupulous bank officials and undue political influence are responsible for this situation. Our banking sector will have to overcome all sorts of corporate myopia and misperceptions to get closer to prospective entrepreneurs like women, ethnic minorities, indigenous tribes and poor citizens.

An all-inclusive approach to monetary issues is essential to rectify the prevailing drawbacks with our country's financial sector. Bankers should remember that their services are not just for well-off clients. Hard-working people from poverty-stricken masses also deserve emphasis and attention from bankers.

The writer is Human Resource Officer, The Asian Age

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