Michaela Balke (Representative, Oikocredit)

16.09.2010 - Interview conducted by Kathleen Vesper

Q1.Are you working in the Middle East or have you given credits to the Middle Eastern region?

It could be since the OIKO credit was always promoted as an ecumenical Christian organization, or it could be that they were not allowed to enter certain countries.  But now the rules are from the Church, but the institution is completely independent from it. There already are OIKO credits in Muslim countries like Bosnia, Kosovo, and Turkey.

Q2.How can microfinance and foreign development assistance efforts cooperate? Do we still need the classical development aid?

Yes, for health and education, and other things like democratic issues and building up states.
You can criticize classical development aid, but I think if we cut it everything will be forgotten. I also have my reservations, but in relation to microcredit as I said before, the development ministry should concentrate more on institutional issues, and not to give  a million to microfinance institution X in this country. It costs a lot for ministries but it should not be seen as regretful, but more on the institutional side, which regulates the financial market. Speculation over these microcredits should be forbidden regarding these countries, but development aid can sometimes go to a country where they provide advice regarding regulation issues. It is still a long ways away, the development ministry giving the microcredits, but I donít think it makes any sense for the ministry to do such a thing.

Q3.Are there problems with the micro-credit system in Latin America?

In Latin America there are too many loans. The prices are not transparent, the client doesnít know the real price. This is evident in a lot of countries as sometimes collective methods are not very usual- corruption, however I donít know in which countries. In Latin America the microfinance sector is now much more organized.

Q4. Do the workers from Oiko microcredits have personal security when they travel?

I donít know, imagine if you work on the countryside in Colombia. Every country has a main office and they talk with microfinance institutions, however the main offices workers donít normally work in the surroundings. The client loan is more costly because there is a security issue, there is security farm forces, I donít know if this is ok, I only know the case of South Africa, where people have been killed.