400 million people in India and 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have electric power at home. Mera Gao Power provides a wonderful market solution. Mera Gao Power can install solar power systems at a low cost that can be paid back in just 2 years by charging only 50 cents a month to users (for 7 hours of electricity a day). So they provide funding (through investors and grants) and recoup the investment quickly by providing a valuable service at a price users can afford.
Four solar panels are sufficient to power an entire village of 100 households with quality light and mobile charging. These panels are installed on the roofs of existing households, thus eliminating the need for land. Since power is generated during the day and used at night they use batteries to store the power.
By utilizing LED lights, MGP’s micro grid design is ultra energy efficient. This is the key to reducing power generation and storage equipment. Each household is provided with two or four LED lights.
Mera Gao Power received funding from USAID Development Innovation Ventures. The video presents their innovation for a village-level solar micro grid to electrify rural Uttar Pradesh for a White House meeting.
Related: Appropriate Technology: Solar Water Heaters in Poor Cairo Neighborhoods – Top Countries For Renewable Energy Capacity – Water Pump Merry-go-Round – Letting Children Learn, Hole in the Wall Computers – Homemade Windmills for Electricity – Water and Electricity for All
Google finance has a nice new feature to let you chart your entire portfolio. You can then compare it to the S&P 500 or other stocks. This is a very nice feature. Yahoo Finance is about the only part of Yahoo I still use. I do use Google Finance some but they still fall short and I use Yahoo Finance much more. This feature will at least encourage me to put my portfolio in Google and start tracking it.
It would be great if this could give you portfolio annual rates of return (including factoring in cash additions and withdraws and keeping track of sales over time to show a true view of the portfolio). It does look like it will factor in stock purchases and sales which is very nice. You can import csv files with transaction history – another nice feature.
It also strikes me as a very smart move (as a Google stockholder that is nice to see) as advertising rates around investing are high. The more time Google can provide financial advertisers the more income they can make.
I made several more Kiva loans to entrepreneur in Kenya, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Kenya, Honduras and Armenia (brining my total loans to 251). It really is great to see real people using capitalism to improve their lives. And being able to help by lending some money is wonderful. When looking for loans I give preference to loans that improve productivity and increasing capacity of the entrepreneur. If they use the proceeds of the loan to increase their capacity to produce they can pay off the loan and find themselves much better off.
A nice example of this is the loan to Douglas Osusu (pictured). He has requested this loan of 80,000 KES to purchase a dairy cow and a posho mill. This loan also has a portfolio yield (Kiva’s equivalent of an annual percentage rate) of 19%. 19% is very loan for loans on Kiva (remember there are significant costs to servicing micro-loans) – I like the rate to be under 30% but sometimes accept rates up to 40% (or even higher occasionally). I also give great preference to low rates, as the lower the rate the better for the entrepreneur. The 3rd factor I consider is the history of the field partner bank (default rate, delinquency rate and currency exchange loss rate). In this case the field partner is new and carries risk because of that. Still in this case I really like the loan and I like that this lender is charging low rates so I want to take the risk and see how they can do. The amount I lend is based on the combination of these factors – I lend more when I have several reasons to really like the loan.
Join other readers by making loans and joining the Curious Cats Lending Team: 8 members, 213 loans totaling $8,775. Comment with the link to your Kiva page and I will add a link on Curious Cat Kivans.
My current default rate is 1.39% and the delinquency rate is 8.49% (see chart of USA general delinquency rates). The delinquency rate is exaggerated due to technical details (some difficulties in reporting in various countries and such things). Agricultural loans often become delinquent on Kiva but still are paid in full (in my experience). While the defaulted loan rate is 1.39% if you look at the percent of dollars lost I have a rate of 1.2% (this is nearly all due to a bank that failed over a year ago to which I had 2 loans where I lost $87.50 of $100 – there are also 2 other losses for under $5). I add to my total loan amount a couple times a year but also I get to keep relending as money is paid back.
Related: 100th Entrepreneur Loan – More Kiva Entrepreneur Loans: Kenya, El Salvador (June 2010) – Kiva Opens to USA Entrepreneur Loans – MicroFinance Currency Risk – Kiva Fellows Blog: Nepalese Entrepreneur Success
Some fast facts on the Kiva micro-lending site:
- 58 months old
- $153,090,650 raised
- 99% repayment rate
- 395,427 entrepreneurs funded
- 742,717 Kiva lenders
- 201 countries
- Curious Cats Lending Team: – 8 members, 193 loans totaling $7,950
This is great news. We need more charity. And we don’t need more trust fund babies. The Giving Pledge was established by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to encourage this spirit.Charity should be a part of your personal finance plan if you are reading this (if you have access to a computer you are wealthier than most people alive today).
To many of the rich today act like they made their money by creating it by themselves. You can’t be a billionaire without getting it given to you by your parents or making your wealth from society. It is wonderful when people provide great solutions to society and become wealthy. It is ridicules to think those people’s wealth is not the result of the society others created. Using that wealth to make society better is right. Spoiling kids and grandkids with it is acceptable, to a certain level. After a couple million that is insulting, however.
Related: House Votes to Restore Partial Estate Tax Very Richest: Those with Over $7 Million – Rich Americans Sue to Keep Evidence of Their Tax Evasion From the Justice Department – Gates Foundation and Rotary Pledge $200 Million to Fight Polio
What is the aim of prison? To keep criminals locked up so they can’t commit crimes in society is another. Punishment, in order to deter people from committing crime is one reason they exist. And you would hope to mold prisoners so they do not commit crimes when they are freed. But the payment for services does not factor in the results of releasing productive members of society. It seems like doing so could result in improvements.
Better Jails by Andrew Leigh, economics professor, Australian National University
To encourage innovation, we should start publicly reporting the outcomes that matter most. Rather than merely telling the public how many people are held in each jail, governments should publish prison-level data on recidivism rates and employment rates.
As well as focusing on the important outcomes, Australian states should rethink the contracts they write with private providers. At present, about 16% of inmates are held in a private jail. Unfortunately, the contracts for private jails bear a remarkable similarity to sheep agistment contracts.
Providers are penalised if inmates harm themselves or others, and rewarded if they do the paperwork correctly. Yet the contracts say nothing about life after release. A private prison operator receives the same remuneration regardless of whether released inmates lead healthy and productive lives, or become serial killers.
A smarter way to run private jails would be to contract for the outcomes that matter most. For example, why not pay bonus payments for every prisoner who holds down a job after release, and does not reoffend? Given the right incentives, private prisons might be able to actually teach the public sector a few lessons on how to run a great rehabilitation program.
The idea of paying for outcomes is great. It makes sense for some pay to be based on keeping prisoners housed during their terms. But providing incentives for achievement in returning productive people back to free society is something we should try.
Related: Lean Management in Policing – Urban Planning – Rich Americans Sue to Keep Evidence of Their Tax Evasion From the Justice Department – Randomization in Sports – LA Jail Saves Time Processing Crime – Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations
Quality Improvement and Government: Ten Hard Lessons From the Madison Experience by David C. Couper, Chief of Police, City of Madison, Wisconsin
The changes in bond yields over the last 3 months months indicate a huge increase in investor confidence. The yield spread between corporate Baa 10 year bonds and 10 year treasury bonds increased 304 basis points from July 2008 to December 2008, indicating a huge swing in investor sentiment away from risk and to security (US government securities). From April 2009 to July 2009 the yield spread decreased by 213 basis points showing investors have moved away from government bonds and into Baa corporate bonds.
From April to July 10 year corporate Aaa yields have stayed essentially unchanged (5.39% to 5.41% in July). Baa yields plunged from 8.39% to 7.09%. And 10 year government bond yields increased from 2.93% to 3.56%. federal funds rate remains under .25%.
Investors are now willing to take risk on corporate defaults for a much lower premium (over government bond yields) than just a few months ago. This is a sign the credit crisis has eased quite dramatically, even though it is not yet over.
I originally setup the 10 stocks for 10 years portfolio in April of 2005. In order to track performance created a marketocracy portfolio but had to make some minor adjustments (and marketocracy doesn’t allow Tesco to be purchased, though it is easily available as an ADR to anyone in the USA to buy in real life – it is based in England). The current marketocracy calculated annualized rate or return (which excludes Tesco) is 3.5% (the S&P 500 annualized return for the period is -1.7%) – marketocracy subtracts the equivalent of 2% of assets annually to simulate management fees – as though the portfolio were a mutual fund – so without that the return is about 5.5%).
The current stocks, in order of return:
|Stock||Current Return||% of sleep well portfolio now||% of the portfolio if I were buying today|
|Amazon – AMZN||136%||9%||9%|
|Google – GOOG||105%||15%||13%|
|Templeton Dragon Fund – TDF||80%||11%||11%|
|PetroChina – PTR||78%||11%||10%|
|Templeton Emerging Market Fund – EMF||28%||5%||6%|
|Cisco – CSCO||15%||6%||8%|
|Toyota – TM||7%||9%||11%|
|Danaher – DHR||-14%||6%||9%|
|Tesco – TSCDY||-14%*||0%*||10%|
|Intel – INTC||-15%||4%||6%|
|Pfizer – PFE||-38%||5%||7%|
The portfolio is beating the S&P 500 by 5.2% annually (which is actually quite good. Also it is a bit confused due to to Tesco not being included. View the current marketocracy Sleep Well portfolio page.
Kiva is one of my favorite charities, as I have mentioned several times. They provide a platform that connects those with funds to lend to entrepreneurs. This week they added the ability to lend money to entrepreneurs in the USA. And they also added short webcasts to some of the entrepreneur profiles.
One of my goals for this blog is to increase the number of readers participating in Kiva – see current Curious Cat Kivans. I have also created a curious cat lending team on Kiva. If you lend through Kiva, add a comment with a link to your Kiva page and I will add you to our list of Curious Cat Kivans.
I made my 100th contribution to a micro-loan through Kiva last week. Participating with Kiva is a great antidote to reading about the unethical “leaders” taking huge sums to run their companies into the ground (or even just taking obscene sums to maintain their company). The opportunity to give real capitalists an chance at a better life is wonderful.
Kiva allows you to lend money to entrepreneur (in increments of $25). The most you get back is the amount you loaned, and if the entrepreneur, does not pay back the loan then you take a loss. This is something you do if you believe if giving people an opportunity to make a better life for themselves through hard work and intelligent economic choices.
My loans have been made to in 32 countries including: Ghana, Cambodia, Uganda, Viet Nam, Peru, Ukraine, Mongolia, Ecuador and Tajikistan. Kiva provides sector (but I think this data is a not that accurate – it depends on the Kiva partners that are not that accurate on identifying the sectors (it seems to me). A large number of the loans are in retail, clothing and food. I like making loans that will improve productivity (manufacturing, providing productivity enhancing services…) but can’t find as many of those as I would like (8% of my loans are in manufacturing, 11% agriculture, retail 18%, 23% food, 25% services (very questionable – these are normally really retail or food, it seems to me).
Some examples of the entrepreneurs I have lent to: welding workshop (Nicaragua), expanding generator services business with computer services (Cambodia), food production (Ghana), manufacturing nylon (Nigeria), internet cafe (Lebanon), electronics repair (Benin), new engine for mill (Togo), weaving (Indonesia) and a food market (Mexico).
21 of my loans have been paid back in full. 3 have defaulted. Those figure give a distorted picture though (I believe). There was a problem with a Kiva partner (they partner with micro-finance banks around the world) MIFEX, in Ecuador. Kiva discovered that MIFEX (i) improperly inflated the loan amounts it posted for entrepreneurs on the Kiva website and (ii) kept the excess amount of the posted loan to fund its own operational expenses. Kiva does not expect any further payments on these loans. I had 2, so I think those 2 give a fair impression. The 3rd default is from Kenya. That loan was to a business selling bicycle parts. In 2008, in Kenya, the prevailing political crisis deteriorated and businesses have either been destroyed or closed in fear of looters. Technically the loan did default, however, I was paid $71.50 out of $75 loan (so the defaulted amount was very small.