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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Policy and legal review of the Micro Finance Institutions (Development & Regulation) Bill: A new working paper

In response to the Second Micro Finance Crisis in Andhra Pradesh, which took place in October 2010, the Ministry of Finance has proposed a new ``Micro Finance Institutions (Development & Regulation)
Bill''. A new working paper by Shubho Roy, Renuka Sane and Susan Thomas analyses this bill from first principles of economics and law.

A great deal of traditional work in India, in the field of finance and public policy, has been poorly grounded in terms of logical thinking. A variety of government interventions are proposed, without fully showing the rationale for why a given intervention is valuable. I have often scented a socialistic impulse to intervene in the economy based on some vague notions of being a do-gooder. In addition, of course, there are interventions which cater to one special interest group after another.

I feel it is useful to work in a systematic way. The first task is to identify market failures (if any). All interventions must be considered guilty until proven innocent: an intervention must demonstrably tackle a manifestly visible problem. A useful classification scheme in finance is that all financial regulation falls under the three heads of consumer protection, prudential regulation and systemic stability. It is useful to pose problems under these three categories, then propose interventions which address them. At both levels, we need to move away from ex cathedra assertions towards logic and evidence that demonstrates that there is a problem, and logic and evidence that shows that the proposed intervention solves the identified problem without inducing collateral damage.

In the years to come, we need much higher quality drafting of law in India. This process will be assisted if independent analysis in the economy will critique draft law as has been done by the Roy, Sane and Thomas paper. We need more universities and think tanks who will subject all draft legislation and draft subordinate legislation to such scrutiny. On the government side, a greater effort on the formal rule-making process is required, whereby government is able to utilise such comments more effectively so as to strengthen the work.

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