There is a great deal focus recently on the “99%” (via occupy wall street and the like). The truth is these are mainly about the 5% or 10% (those rich, but not quite as rich as the richest 1% – and much further from the richest than they were a few decades ago). As I have written before, most of those in the USA (also Europe, Japan…) are rich (though this is changing, a greater percentage of the USA is not rich, looking globally, than maybe any point since the 1930s).
We get confused because many near us are even richer and think that means the rest of us are very poor. But those in the USA are often in the 5% or 10% – not the 30% or 60% or 90% they seem to think they are. $50,000 in annual income puts you in the top 1% globally. $25,000 puts you in the top 10%.
I agree with the desire to reduce the political and market corruption, as I have written for years.
For the 99% (or the 90% anyway), I really think the best things are government policies that reduce corruption and increase market forces. Letting actually capitalism work instead of political and corporate cronyism failing to let markets work as they should. Also giving education and the chance to build a better life for yourself are important. Thankfully many countries have been doing very well on this front: Singapore, Korea, Brazil, Ghana, China… That doesn’t mean there are not huge issues to still address for most of the 90%, there are.
Microfinance in general, and Kiva in particular, are one great way to help. Again it isn’t perfect. And those getting the loans are not given an easy life. They are given a chance to try and build there business to improve there economic condition. This isn’t a certain success. And I do worry that taking on too high an interest rate, or loan amount, can leave people worse off than before. But when looking at the system of microfinance I really like the opportunity it gives people, who haven’t been given many.
Those getting loans have to make smart personal finance and business decisions. If they do well they can greatly improve their financial situation. I made several more loans today, using money repaid by previous borrowers. I try to find loans where I am able to help fund a investment that will improve capacity (but that isn’t always possible) – a new machine that makes them more efficient for example. I also try to avoid loans where the interest rate is over 30% (which might seem very high, but rates below 20% are very rare given the economics of these loans – they are very costly to service). What Kiva does is provide the funds people like me lend as interest free loans to the partner banks. The idea is that this allows partner banks to provide more capital for loans (obviously) and at a lower rate because the bank isn’t having to pay interest on the funds.
My loans today went to: Mali, Honduras, Senegal, Ecuador, Togo, Philippines and in the photo above El Salvador. The Curious Cat Kivans group has now lent $12,925 in 320 loans. We now have 11 members, join up and help give people an opportunity to improve their economic condition.