Report from Beloit: Senior Seminar

> Posted by Val Ng

Elisabeth Rhyne takes questions from students during the senior seminar at Beloit.

Elisabeth Rhyne takes questions from students during the senior seminar at Beloit.

Sitting in on a senior seminar class reminds me that college is almost over.  The atmosphere is more serious, and the topics of discussion are deeper (and sometimes fly over my head).
My main interest was Dr. Rhyne’s discussion of the public sector and how Indonesia has the most successful government-owned microfinance bank.  Having lived 6 years of my childhood in Jakarta where my dad worked in Citibank, this topic fascinated me.  I had no idea that Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI, meaning ‘The Bank of the People of Indonesia’) had such a history of success.  That makes me really curious – what is it about Indonesia and BRI that has allowed this success?  What is it about the country’s culture, politics, and policies that has allowed this and why can’t other countries copy it?
I was also fascinated by the topic of debt bondage and the formal versus the informal sector with regards to loans.  Loan sharks are a huge problem in many countries.  Is there a way to create a system that renders loan sharks useless?
Two final notes: Dr. Rhyne has mentioned gender issues in a lot of her lectures.  ACCION’s clients are 65% female.  It’s interesting to think about gender-related topics and microfinance.  Also, what are the pros and cons of microfinance being ‘sold’ to supporters as a poverty alleviation tool vs. a financial-sector development tool?
Thoughts and ideas anyone?
Val Ng is a student at Beloit College and is our guest blogger reporting on Elisabeth Rhyne’s participation in the week of events surrounding the 10th anniversary of the Weissberg Chair Program. Elisabeth Rhyne is this year’s Marvin Weissberg Chair.

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