Successful pilot projects on sustainable microfinance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), launched in Aceh since its recovery from the devastating 2004 tsunami, can serve as a role model for the promotion of SMEs in other provinces, experts urged in a seminar last week.
“If it worked in Aceh, it should work elsewhere,” said Mariano A. Cordero, team leader for the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) livelihood and microfinance subprojects, during a seminar, “Creating Sustainable Micro and Small Enterprises Financial Services” on Friday.
The seminar was part of a two-day exhibition themed “Celebration of Humanity” which the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR) for Aceh and Nias’ organized in conjunction with the approaching end of its mandate.
The one-day seminar featured speakers from BRR, ADB, the German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), small rural government-run banks or Bank Perkreditan Rakyat (BPRs), and the Regional Development Bank (BPD) of Aceh and Nias, North Sumatra.
BRR’s fact sheet estimates 100,000 SMEs were destroyed or damaged by the tsunami in December 2004.
The disaster also destroyed around 20,000 hectares of fish farms and 60,000 hectares of farmland.
Mariano said principles of microfinance had been implemented successfully, even though Aceh suffered from severe disaster conditions in the wake of the tsunami disaster, but another challenge soon arose.
“A second wave of tsunamis swamped Aceh in the form of unhealthy credit. Forty to 50 donor organizations hand out substantially subsidized credit and grants, even though conditions in the disaster areas were starting to get back to normal,” he said.
He said financial institutions in Aceh needed help to improve and increase their capacity rather than more funds. Donor and government aid was more urgently required in technical assistance and in developing policies which help fledgling credit institutions.
Among ADB’s missions in Aceh has been to create sustainable SMEs in cooperation with 20 private and government BPRs, BPD Aceh and Nias and with the state financing and investment firm PT Permodalan Nasional Madani (PNM).
“Indonesia has more than 3,000 BPRs and 26 BPDs, with the latter having more than 1,000 branches across the country. These are the institutions you can set up in Aceh and elsewhere,” Mariano said.
ADB’s steps to improve microfinance in Aceh included merging 12 BPRs into one bank with 12 branches, upgrading information technology in 18 BPR offices, and training and mentoring BPD Aceh’s loan officer in managing farming and fishery portfolios.
Addie Permono, a team leader for the BRR project, said the ADB had disbursed $10 million in grants with an absorption rateof 80 percent since 2006.
The BPD Aceh data shows that as of last December, the pilot project in Aceh has successfully drawn 360 commercial microfinance customers, and 970 “grassroot” microfinance customers.
Meanwhile, the bank also managed to disburse Rp 3.22 billion ($273,700) in loans to the microfinance commercial sector of which only 0.5 percent were unrecoverable. It disbursed another Rp 2.05 billion to grassroots microfinance sector, none of which were non-performing.
Commercial microfinance customers are individuals or companies with a minimum of one year of business experience and maximum revenue of Rp 300 million per year.
Grassroots microfinance loan customers are from low-income households who run productive businesses. Only households with monthly incomes under Rp 2 million are eligible for credit.
ADB’s strategy in cooperating with local banks to improve the SME sector can be applied to the microfinance sector across Indonesia.
“From the Aceh experience, we have learned that building the capacity of financial institutions, focusing on long-term plans, and creating sustainable microfinance services are what we need to improve SMEs,” said Mariano.
The BRR’s fact sheet shows the agency spent $6.7 billion out of the pledged $7.2 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.
The funds comprised $2.21 billion from the Indonesian government, $2.2 billion from NGOs, and $2.4 billion from donor countries.
As of the end of last December, $5.4 billion had been disbursed, while the disbursed national budget reached Rp 23.83 trillion.