Thu, 25 Mar 1999

Citigroup aids small firms

JAKARTA (JP): America's Citigroup Foundation donated on Wednesday US$1 million to Grameen Trust in order that it can extend its microcredit program to five countries hardest hit by the Asian economic crisis.

Citibank's country business manager for consumer banking, Barry Lesmana, said the grant would allow poor entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand to qualify for loans to establish and run small businesses.

"Indonesia and the other four countries will received $200,000 each. The loans will enable entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for bank loans to borrow start-up capital and learn and establish their own microbusinesses," Barry said.

Grameen's managing director, Latifee, said Grameen's funded microcredit programs had disbursed funds to nearly 300,000 borrowers in 28 countries. In Indonesia, the Grameen Trust currently supports Mitra Karya East Java, a non-governmental organization initiated by Brawijaya University's Research Center to provide credit to rural poor.

With an initial fund of $15,000 from the Grameen Trust in 1995 and another $50,000 in 1995, Mitra Karya reached 2,549 borrowers as of March, with a repayment rate of 98 percent. (gis)