Can the banks beat the mattress? In other words, can financial institutions outperform the most basic option for saving—tucking money away in a backyard or other hiding place? In this session, sponsored by the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), Professor Michael Sherraden of the Washington University at St. Louis spoke about policies to help impoverished people build assets. Kate McKee, Senior Adviser for the World Bank, chaired the meeting and introduced the speaker.
Sherraden began his presentation with a short explanation of how US social policy was shaped, and what he found when he examined it. He commented on programs that his Center for Social Development is leading both inside and outside the United States, noted a trend toward individual accounts-based policies, and he explained why saved assets are the pathway to development by allowing more than just deferred consumption.
Ray Boshara, Vice President and Director of the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation, commented on the value and trends of microfinance and savings programs around the world. Allyn Moushey, Advisor to the USAID Office of Poverty Reduction, discussed USAID’s perspective on asset-based poverty-fighting programs, and how they are integrating these ideas into their work. Thierry van Bastelaer, Associate Vice-President for Save the Children, stressed the importance of encouraging transparency and understanding of clients. He called for caution in implementation, in order to preserve already-existing benefits.
Audience members asked the panelists about production versus savings assets, transferring benefits to the general population, and micro-enterprise strategies.