With support from the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) and Colombo Plan Secretariat (CPS), Mekong Institute (MI) has successfully conducted a two-week International Training on "Microfinance for SMEs Development in Asia Pacific Region" from April 25 - May 6, 2016. The training aimed to equip the participants with the knowledge and skills on microfinance by enhancing their capacity development, fostering and sharing of relevant experience and information.
A total of twenty-two participants of eleven countries attended the training. They were from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, representing governmental officials from Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Trade and Tourism of the Government, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, National Planning Commission Secretariat, Planning and Development Department, Department of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Prisons Reforms, SME Cooperation, Bank of Lao PDR/ BAAC, and Community Development Department.
Mrs. Sasitorn Wongweerachotkit, Director of International Organizations Partnership Branch Thailand International Cooperation Agency, addressed at the opening ceremony that Microfinance is not only a powerful instrument for self-empowerment which can generate income but also plays an important role in helping poor people to start their own business, sustaining an income to build up wealth and exit poverty. It is also a mechanism to help the developing countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.
"The objective of the training course is to provide different topics pertinent to the policy development and empirical use of microfinance to the participants with an opportunity to improve knowledge and skills in the field of microfinance, in particular the operational aspect of microfinance development to vigorously promote the legal operations of MFIs all over the countries in the region" as said by Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, Executive Director of the Mekong Institute, during the welcoming remarks.
Attending the training program, the participants gained knowledge and skills, delivered and shared by in-house resource persons and external experts covering issues on challenges and opportunities of Microfinance Institution and SME development, Regulatory and Government Support for Microfinance Development, Types of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), The Establishment of Community-based Microfinance, Local Government Support to Microfinance, Sociological Framework of Rural Community-based Microfinance, and Operational Management of Non-interest based Microfinance.
Structured Learning Visits (SLV) were organized in Khon Kaen and nearby as part of the program, in order to understand the importance and significance of Financial Institution and Community Financial Institutions in providing services to the Community Financial Institution members. The visits were at i) Community Financial Institution at Baan Nong Vaeng Reau, Kao Suan Kwang District, ii) Community Financial Institution, Baan Nong Vaeng, Nong Rue District, Khon Kaen and iii) Community Financial Institutions at Yang Oum Village, Thakantho District, Kalasin Province. Key main issues for discussions were focus the 'Borrowers'- group or individual on loan application process, investments, repayment, feedback of the borrowers, the 'Lender' – Micro Financial Institution on its loan products/services, clientele base, funding to community- how it works, opportunities and challenges, and identifying the best practices of community based microfinance.
On the last day of the training, the participants prepared and developed a country-wide action plan to disseminate the knowledge and skills they gained during the training. The action plan also consists of a number of action steps in accordance with the national/local scenario, added with the endowment of clear-cut group work divisions and responsibilities.