Bro. Erle Frayne D. Argonza
[Writ 12 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. The author was a former young executive of the Ministry of Human Settlements for Cagayan and Batanes provinces and for Cagayan Valley. ]
Financing micro-enterprise has now come a long way in the Philippines. And there is much cause for jubilation regarding this particular feat.
I myself began my professional career in enterprise finance, as a young livelihood supervisor with the defunct Ministry of Human Settlements. Our funds sources for development financing then were from three sources: (a) Human Settlements Development Corporation or HSDC; (b) Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran or KKK (roughly, National Livelihood Movement); and, (c) BLISS Program, for those BLISS housing site-related projects. That was in the early 1980s, and we were quite awash with funds then.
With quite a huge war chest for our projects, we sat down in no time at all around the 2nd quarter of 1981 to plan the compass of operations for the newly launched program, the National Livelihood Movement. It took us around two (2) months to do planning internally, after which we took another couple of months to dialogue with other state agencies and procure their own co-operation and partnering with us regarding the project prototypes and modules.
Among those projects that we identified pronto were those simple micro-enterprises that would easily buy with the folks. Our projects though went beyond the micro-finance, as we were mandated to fund huge projects via the HSDC program. I was with the Cagayan Valley team then, and was transferred from community development to livelihood program just so that I can focus my tasks of taking off the new KKK program in my areas of jurisdiction.
I recall very well how reluctant were the folks in accessing to financing. That was a time when the Philippine economy was still 50% rural, and the psyche of the folks was strongly of the peasant-rural artisan type. They couldn’t easily identify with new ideas, even as they get suspicious over them, as the failures of previous programs (e.g. Masagana 99 for rice) have transmogrified them into shy turtles whenever enterprise financing comes. Besides, they weren’t that confident that they could run their own projects competently.
Given that rural background of the folks, our project teams prioritized food production-related concerns, as well as crafts that were more or less backward or forward linkages of food production. To name a few project modules that we developed and successfully funded via the KKK: garlic production (1-1.5 hectares); citrus orchard (5-10 hectares); goat raising (10-heads); draft carabao (1-head buffalo); onion production; bagoong production (backyard, jar-crucible). The total list of enterprises actually went beyond 100 in Cagayan and Batanes alone, where I was primarily assigned. I’m citing only the micro, individual beneficiary-operated projects here.
Because the program was new, we had to undertake a social marketing campaign by informing not only the people but also our partner agencies. The latter were particularly very helpful in our efforts at capacity-building, both for our development implementers and beneficiaries. The financial delivery system also had to be oiled well, as this involved co-partnering with state banks that acted as fund repositories and co-evaluators. It was a success as a whole, amid the gaps in the initial implementations.
That was a long time ago now. The KKK is still alive as an institution today, many other micro-finance institutions have already cropped up including NGOs, and the central bank already entered the arena for regulatory and wholesale funding purposes. The old informal micro-financing, via the 5/6 scheme now has to retool or repackage their financing, as they have been perceived as economic barnacles and have to compete with the formal institutions for beneficiary loyalty.
The great thing with micro-finance is that not only does it save the petty commodity producer from poverty. As the case of the early 80s had shown, the KKK and related programs were instrumental in cushioning the impact of global recession and the internal shock caused by Dewey Dee scandal that sent down the economy like a sinking boat.
When a strategy such as microfinance can save the boat both on the micro and macro levels, it can indeed be a very strong strategy for national salvation. And this is where our jubilation comes in.
Mabuhay! A toast to micro-finance!