Can Entrepreneurship Programmes Transform the Economic Lives of the Poor?
Institute of Microfinance (InM) and International Growth Centre (IGC) jointly organised a seminar entitled “Can Entrepreneurship Programmes Transform the Economic Lives of the Poor?” at Bakul Room, Ruposhi Bangla Hotel, Dhaka on 18 December 2011. The seminar was based on the findings of an experimental impact evaluation of the ‘Specially Targeted Ultra Poor’ programme (STUP) of BRAC that provided asset transfer, enterprise training and lessons in microfinance aiming to create a graduation pathway for the ultra poor.
Professor Robin Burgess of London School of Economics (LSE), was the keynote speaker of the seminar.
Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Economic Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor, Bangladesh Bank graced the event as the Special Guests. Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, Chairman, InM chaired the seminar.
Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud welcomed everyone to the seminar and expressed his gratitude to notable guests and other spectators for their valuable participation. He pointed out that empowering poor women through enlarging their entrepreneurial ability is the front year research topic. With the entrepreneurial ability, poor people become capable in terms of managing their asset and loans. He also said that poor people have diversified needs, where asset transfer can supplement microcredit as a way of promoting entrepreneurship of poor women.
Professor Robin Burgess, the keynote speaker of the seminar informed that the major distinctive characteristic of this evaluation was to examine the impact of the entrepreneurship programme ‘STUP’ of BRAC on various communities of Bangladesh. He said the ultra poor are trapped below subsistence level from which it is difficult for them to come out using available resources and mechanisms. In rural South Asia, poorest are mainly illiterate and have limited demand for capital (e.g. microfinance). Usually they are considered as incapable of running their own business. But unskilled wage labour occupations like agricultural labourer or domestic servants shift towards self-employment as they receive benefits by ways of asset transfer.
Professor Burgess identified a number of key implications of the programme. He mentioned that the poorest are capable of running small businesses and there is a large increase in hours worked towards self-employment (running livestock business). Poor become more like middle class in the programme area in terms of occupational choice and welfare, and ultra poor households have started to invest in other non-programme productive assets. It can be considered from the evaluation that the ultra poor have taken a significant step up the ladder out of poverty.
At the open floor (question-answer) discussion session, various queries came up from eminent research scholars and academicians, and Professor Burgess replied to the questions from the participants.
Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor, Bangladesh Bank, thanked Professor Burgess for presenting such a rich evaluation study and providing some concrete results. He mentioned, this is a policy relevant study based on a very good sample which may help the government in implementing lots of vital decisions.
Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Adviser to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, also appreciated the presentation from Professor Burgess. He said the ultra poor who do not have resources must be provided some basic supports like asset transfer or training, so that they become eligible for utilising their potentials and thus raising overall economic growth.
In his concluding remarks, Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud highly appreciated the study and thanked BRAC for undergoing this type of programme. He also emphasised that this was a huge survey and would be a good source of valuable data.
The seminar became lively by the active participation of current and former senior-level policymakers, private sector leaders, national and international academicians, research scholars, other eminent personnel from reputed institutions and organisations.