Focus Asia 2017
Financial Inclusion in Asia: Discourse and Discontent
Since its initiation in the 1970s, the modern microfinance movement quickly became the most popular and best-funded development intervention worldwide, promising to reduce poverty and underdevelopment on a scale unprecedented in human history. However, since the mid-2000s, microfinance’s lustre has been tarnished due to a number of high-profile crises, and mounting evidence that it does not actually reduce poverty, facilitate development or promote empowerment. In this context, proponents of microfinance have sought to downplay the initial claims of miraculous poverty reduction, and redirect the movement towards the goal of promoting ‘financial inclusion’ as a beneficial end in and of itself. This symposium seeked to critically interrogate the concept of ‘financial inclusion’ as a new metric of success for the global microfinance movement, with a particular focus on what this inclusion means for people, economies and processes of (under)development at the local level.