Webinar Series 2020-2021: Financial Transformation, Credit Markets and Household Debt in Southeast Asia

Webinar Series 2020-2021: Financial Transformation, Credit Markets and Household Debt in Southeast Asia

About the Webinar Series

This webinar series explores the transformation of financial landscapes in Southeast Asia. Within the last two decades, most of the ASEAN countries have experienced an economic boom and become more integrated with global capital markets. Financial inclusion has also significantly improved even though it remains relatively low in some countries. An important aspect of this financial transformation is the development of traditional and digital credit markets in a context where informal finance remains well-entrenched. Another key component is the rise of household debt driven by the consolidation of a young and aspirational middle-class. Regulating the new financial landscapes and managing household credit booms are critical to ensure financial stability and balancing the benefits of consumer lending with the risks of overheating. The seminar will address these pressing issues by shedding light on household debt and the evolution of formal and informal credit markets including consumer lending, digital finance, peer-to-peer lending, microfinance, pawnshops, rotative credit associations, and moneylending.

Two sessions will be co-organized with the Centre for Banking & Finance Law, National University of Singapore.

Coordinator: Nicolas Lainez (nicolas_jose_lainez@iseas.edu.sg)


Registration

This webinar series will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinars at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Please register for each session to receive your unique link for joining the webinars. Limited spaces only, register early to avoid disappointment.

To join the webinar,

1. Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.
2. Set up a Zoom account, using the following link: https://zoom.us/signup
3. Click on the unique link in your email.

For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A feature, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.

7 September 2020 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
Microfinance in Cambodia: ‘Building-back-better’ in the Post-Covid19 Era

Dr Milford Bateman (Visiting Professor, Juraj Dobrila, Pula University)
Discussant: Dr W Nathan Green (Assistant Professor, Geography Department, NUS)
Read the event highlight here.

14 October 2020 (10.30 am – 11.45 am)
Myanmar’s Mobile Finance Revolution? Disruption and Promise

Dr Sean Turnell (Associate Professor in Economics, Macquarie University; Special Economic Consultant to Myanmar’s State Counsellor)
Read the event highlight here.

5 November 2020 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm) (co-organized with CBFL)
The Challenges of Low-Income Debt and Moneylending in Singapore

Dr Jodi Gardner (Lecturer, St John’s College, University of Cambridge)
Discussant: Dr Sandra Booysen (Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore and Deputy-Director of the Centre for Banking & Finance Law)
Click here to register

17 December 2020 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
Does a New Informal Credit Arrangement Improve Poor’s Welfare? The Case of Debit Card

Dr Kei Kajisa (Professor, School of International Politics, Economics and Communication, Aoyama Gakuin University)
Click here to register

14 January 2021 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
Savings and Credit in Rural Lao PDR: With a Focus on the Village-level Savings Groups

Dr Koichi Fujita (Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University)
Discussant: Prof Hans Dieter Seibel (Professor Emeritus, Cologne University)
Click here to register

15 February 2021 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm) (co-organized with CBFL)
Understanding People’s Use of Digital Lending in Indonesia

Dr Johan Irni Rahmayan (Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, IPB University; CHASM Research Fellow, University of Birmingham)
Click here to register

15 March 2021 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
Exploring Differences in Rural Household Debt between Thailand and Vietnam: Economic Environment versus Household Characteristics
Dr Bezawit Beyene Chichaibelu (Senior Researcher, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn)
Click here to register

12 April 2021 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
Financial Inclusion and Big Data in Southeast Asia (to be confirmed)
Dr Philip Mader (Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies) 
Registration link to come

3 May 2021 (4.00 pm – 5.15 pm)
The Production of Financial Landscapes in Cambodia
Dr W. Nathan Green (Assistant Professor, Geography Department, NUS)
Click here to register

18 May 2021 (3.00 pm – 4.15 pm)
Moneylending in Ho Chi Minh City: The Interlocking of Debt and Labour (to be confirmed)

Dr Nicolas Lainez (Visiting Fellow, Regional Economic Studies, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Click here to register


Microfinance in Cambodia: ‘Building-back-better’ in the Post-Covid19 Era

Monday, 7 September 2020
Singapore time, 4pm

Read the event highlight here.

At the end of 2019 Cambodia possessed the most world’s most profitable and largest (on a per capita basis) microfinance sector. Yet, at the very same time, it was being described by leading advocates as in ‘an existential crisis’ thanks to a history of reckless lending, unsustainable growth, and egregious profiteering. In a matter of weeks in 2020, however, this systemic crisis was forgotten thanks to the global Covid-19 crisis. On the largely false pretext that the microfinance sector provides Cambodia’s poor with a pathway out of poverty, the Cambodian government and the international development community are rushing to construct a bail-out program that will keep the current largely foreign investor-owned microfinance sector alive. This lecture will argue that this is entirely the wrong approach to take. Not least because the world’s largest microfinance market has to date seriously undermined the lives of Cambodia’s poor, this will mainly benefit the narrow elite that manages, owns, invests in and advises the microfinance sector. I propose instead a Rooseveltian approach to local finance based on use of scarce financial resources to help create a radically new community-owned and controlled financial system that is genuinely pro-poor and developmental while usefully extending democratic practices.

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

The Discussant

Dr Milford Bateman
Visiting Professor of Economics, Pula University (Croatia)

Adjunct Professor in Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University (Canada)

W Nathan Green
Dr W. Nathan Green
Assistant Professor of Geography, National University of Singapore (Singapore)


Myanmar’s Mobile Finance Revolution? Disruption and Promise

Wednesday, 14 October 2020
Singapore time, 10.30 am – 11.45 am

Read the event highlight here.

The rise of mobile phone-based financial services brings with it the promise of economic inclusion on an unprecedented scale. This is especially true in countries, such as Myanmar, where banking and finance have historically been the vehicles for monopoly rents, and the systemic core of a political economy of restricted access and control. Mobile financial services, partly as delivered and fairly as extrapolated, offer the channels for the aggregation and allocation of capital, the smoothing of consumption, and the potential basis both for the regularisation of economic life, and some protection against its vicissitudes. This paper explores the beginnings of mobile financial services in Myanmar, their dramatic expansion since the country’s (albeit, incomplete) political transformation, the state of play of the sector, and the issues and obstacles it faces. The paper concludes by exploring future extensions and possibilities of what beckons as a genuine revolution in Myanmar’s financial and economic affairs.

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

Dr Sean Turnell
Associate Professor in Economics, Macquarie University (Australia)

Special Economic Consultant to Myanmar’s State Counsellor (Myanmar)

The Challenges of Low-Income Debt and Moneylending in Singapore

Thursday, 5 November 2020 (event co-organized with CBFL/NUS)
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

Singapore is a land of contrasts and, at times, of inequality. These issues were highlighted in Oxfam’s ‘The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018’, where Singapore was in the bottom 10 countries in terms of reducing inequality, being ranked 149 in an index of 157 countries. The government has responded proactively to these challenges by enacting a number of reforms to address the increasing inequality in the country. Equality in the financial market is one area that is particularly worthy of attention. Singapore is a world leader in banking and a financial hub, yet many of its citizens rely on moneylending as their main source of credit. Despite the government interest and activity in the area, there is surprisingly little academic research on low-income debt, moneylending and the impact it has on borrowers. This presentation will consider a range of relevant issues including moneylending regulation, bankruptcy reforms and open banking, highlighting what further steps can be taken to increase equality in Singapore’s financial market.

Download the webinar notice here. (updated 28 September)

The Speaker

The Discussant

Dr Jodi Gardner
University Lecturer, St John’s College, University of Cambridge (UK)

Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Banking & Finance Law, NUS (Singapore)
Sandra Booysen
Dr Sandra Booysen
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore and Deputy-Director of the Centre for Banking & Finance Law

Does a New Informal Credit Arrangement Improve Poor’s Welfare? The Case of Debit Card Pawning in the Philippines

Thursday, 17 December 2020
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

This presentation focuses on a recent example of a new credit arrangement in the Philippines’ informal finance sector: an emerging credit arrangement called “ATM sangla (pawning),” literally meaning debit card pawning. ATM sangla is an informal loan arrangement where the borrower’s ATM (debit) card is used as the collateral, where the lender uses the card to withdraw the repayment (principal and interest) from salary deposits on every payday until the entire amount is repaid. Using our unique survey data of factory workers in an industrial estate near the Metro Manila area, we find that slightly less than half (42%) of our respondents actually utilized ATM sangla at least once, with the average loan amounting to the average monthly salary. We find that roughly one-third of our respondents are present-biased discounters (myopic individuals), where they tend to hold higher loan balances with ATM sangla transactions than those whose preferences are time-consistent. Our results show that the present-biased discounters are naïve, rather than sophisticated, suggesting that the emergence of ATM sangla may have encouraged them to overborrow to finance luxury expenses. This paper is co-authored with Nobuhiko Fuwa (University of Tokyo), Eduardo Lucio (University of Queensland), Sharon Faye Piza (World Bank), and Yasuyuki Sawada (Asian Development Bank). 

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

Dr Kei Kajisa
Professor of Development Economics, Aoyama Gakuin University (Japan)


Savings and Credit in Rural Lao PDR: With a Focus on the Village-level Savings Groups

Thursday, 14 January 2021
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

Since the late 1990s village-level savings groups (SGs) were organized in Laos by a joint venture of NGOs (from Thailand) and Lao Women’s Union, starting from villages in Vientiane Municipality and expanded to more remote rural areas. The Agricultural Promotion Bank (APB), established in 1993, has a nation-wide branch network but a limited capacity to deliver credit to farmers. Given the still largely subsistence-oriented but rapidly transforming to market-based economy in rural Laos, the presentation reports the current status and structure of rural financial market, which is comprised of informal, formal (mainly APB), and the newly emerged SGs, based on intensive fieldwork conducted in several villages in Vientiane Municipality and Luang Prabang Province.

Download the webinar notice here. (updated 22 October 2020)

The Speaker

The Discussant

Dr Koichi Fujita
Professor of Economics, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University (Japan)
Hans Dieter Seibel
Prof Hans Dieter Seibel
Professor Emeritus, Cologne University

Understanding People’s Use of Digital Lending in Indonesia

Monday, 15 February 2021 (event co-organized with CBFL/NUS)
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

As the fourth most populous country in the world, and with an internet participation ratio of more than 50%, Indonesia shows huge potential for financial technology (fintech). However, the penetration of financialisation has brought many challenges. In Indonesia, the increase of household debt is partly supported by the rapid growth of information technology-based lending. For some people, the easier access to credit that is offered might be one opportunity, however, it raises new risks as well, such as being burdened by debt or worsening their financial condition, especially if they choose an unsecured loan. Government policies have become very important as a result. Strengthening regulation in the financial services sector is very important to reduce the complexity and fraud. Alongside with this, living in a more financialised world means that we need a better understanding of finance. Financial capability plays an important role because it supports a greater understanding of financial management and protects people from fraud and unnecessary financial risks. Given that over-indebtedness could risk the country into financial vulnerability, this presentation will discuss a range of relevant issues related to the use of fintech and financial capability in Indonesia, with the focuses on household debt sourced from online loans, it will also highlight the efforts and regulation of financial services made by the government in ensuring good market conduct and enhancing consumer protection.

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

Dr Johan Irni Rahmayan
CHASM Research Fellow, University of Birmingham (UK)

Lecturer, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Faculty of Human Ecology, Bogor Agricultural University (Indonesia)

Exploring Differences in Rural Household Debt between Thailand and Vietnam: Economic Environment versus Household Characteristics

Monday, 15 March 2021
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

Rural financial markets have grown rapidly in Asian emerging market economies, thus contributing to economic development and the reduction of poverty. At the same time, however, the level of indebtedness of rural households has increased, making households more vulnerable to shocks. This study aims to explore cross-country differences in credit market participation, level of household debt holding and over-indebtedness between rural households in Thailand and Vietnam. Using a unique rural household survey data from “Vulnerability in Southeast Asia” project, it first identifies socio-economic determinants of such market outcomes for rural households in Thailand and Vietnam. It decomposes differences into a part that arise due to configuration of household characteristics or a part that arise due to differences in economic environments using three decomposition methods. Significant differences are observed in credit market participation rates and level of debt holding and indebtedness between rural households in Thailand and Vietnam which are mainly explained by differences in credit market conditions between the two countries.

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

Bezawit Beyene Chichaibelu
Dr Bezawit Beyene Chichaibelu
Senior Research Fellow, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn (Germany)


The Production of Financial Landscapes in Cambodia

Monday, 3 May 2021
Singapore time, 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm

Register Here

In the 1990s, scholars of development proposed the concept of financial landscapes to make sense of how rural finance is made up of both formal and informal markets. They showed that formal financial markets are actually sustained by informal practices like family borrowing and local moneylending. To understand the uneven dynamics of rural finance, it is thus necessary to examine the power-laden connections between a variety of institutions of lending, borrowing, and saving. However, this approach to financial landscapes has inadequately conceptualized how rural finance is produced by the material practices of labouring on and off the land. Indeed, human geographers have long shown that the production of physical landscapes is a constitutive element in socio-economic relations. In this presentation, I apply insights from human geography to ethnographic data about Cambodia’s rural financial landscape. I illustrate that different forms of household farm labour both sustain, and are sustained by, various financial markets, from informal moneylending for cattle trading to formal microfinance for agricultural intensification. This approach advances our understanding of financial landscapes in two ways: 1) it focuses analysis on the relationship between agricultural transformation and financial markets; and 2) it explains how rural finance is connected to geographically dispersed labour markets as farming households increasingly rely upon out-migration for income. Policy should therefore regulate financial markets with an eye towards the diversity, and precarity, of livelihood practices pursued by rural households today.

Download the webinar notice here.

The Speaker

W Nathan Green
Dr W. Nathan Green
Assistant Professor of Geography, National University of Singapore (Singapore)

Moneylending in Ho Chi Minh City: The Interlocking of Debt and Labour (to be confirmed)

Tuesday, 18 May 2021
Singapore time, 3.00 pm – 4.15 pm

Register Here

In today’s world, lenders use efficient and sophisticated ways to control and collateralize borrowers’ labour and wages. These practices have had devastating effects on Western middle classes who have lost wages and savings by taking securitized loans. They also affect financially excluded, disadvantaged and precarious workers in transitional economies who pledge future labour to fund consumption and production. This presentation examines how lenders control borrowers’ labour in an informal and highly volatile labour sector: the sex trade in Ho Chi Minh City. It describes how pimps and managers of entertainment outlets who have a labour relationship with sex workers take control of and extract value from their labour by providing loans that are popular in the money lending market. In contrast, moneylenders who have no labour relationship with sex workers control their labour by threatening their honour and body. By shedding light on the interlocking of debt and labour, this presentation contributes to discussions on the power of debt economies to siphon wages.

Download the webinar notice here. (updated 28 September)

The Speaker

Nicolas Lainez
Dr Nicolas Lainez
Visiting Research Fellow, ISEAS (Singapore)

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS (Singapore)