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An investigation of how changes to corporate governance in Nepalese microfinance institutions may increase outreach while maintaining their financial performance.

Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) traditionally have a mission to provide credit to the poorest of the poor and promote sustainable pathways towards a better tomorrow. Importantly, promoting financial inclusion by providing services as alternatives to the informal financial sector of moneylenders, MFIs assist in economic and social growth. In Nepal, the increasing demand for cash to meet social and religious obligations in largely subsistent village economies is increasingly supported by short-term seasonal migration. The removal of working-age males from communities produces a range of unanticipated and not necessarily desirable outcomes. MFIs, it is suggested, can ameliorate the problem and positively contribute to improved sustainable development outcomes. Potentially, significant gains in outreach are realistically achievable in the context of remote village settings where there is currently little access to cash. It is observed that cash requirements among the rural poor are increasing as more and more activities, such as the purchase of chattels and livestock plus other transactions such as religious festivals and weddings, now require money. This study examines the impact of corporate governance practices on MFIs’ outreach and financial performance in Nepal. In particular, it examines the relationship between corporate governance mechanisms in MFIs and their outreach and financial performance. How the Nepalese central bank, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), through its corporate governance directives for Banking and Financial Institutions (BFIs) influences corporate governance practices of MFIs is analysed in this study. The good governance practices may enable the MFIs to perform better and increase MFIs’ social mission as well as their sustainability. Good governance practices can reduce the hierarchical time-consuming bureaucracy and wasteful utilization of resources necessarily diverted from MFIs’ mission. Defined structures of governance clarify the responsibilities and accountability that encourage transparency, contributing to a reduction in corruption, freeing available funds for MFIs’ mission. Nevertheless, it is debatable what forms of governance practice increase MFIs’ performance. Bankruptcy of firms around the world, especially in mature western economies, has raised concerns about governance practices. The extent to which promulgated guidelines, flowing from these failures, are applicable in low-income countries (LICs), and Nepal in particular, is not obvious and requires examination. The standard format of governance structure in developed economic countries may not work the same in a developing economic country like Nepal, which has strong hierarchical social structures and beliefs. The best fit MFI governance structure in Nepal will arise from evidence-based research in Nepal. This thesis makes a number of contributions to the existing knowledge of corporate governance and MFI performance in several ways. First, it provides evidence of corporate governance factors and how respective individual components influence MFI outreach and financial performance. Second, this study uses non-parametric quantile regression to analyse the data. This method is the most appropriate, based on careful diagnostic testing of the data. The non-parametric regression results differ from results noted in some prior research. Reconciling these differences illuminates some key social, ethnic and regional issues. Third, this is the first direct study on corporate governance practices and MFIs’ outreach and financial performance in Nepal. Finally, the potential for future research opened by the findings in the current study are noted. The relationship of corporate governance and MFIs’ outreach and financial performance is examined based on available data. Initial efforts to obtain data from NRB and the Rural Microfinance Development Centre (RMDC), relating to MFIs enjoyed minimal success. The Mix Market database provides the basic input for creating an unbalanced data panel. The time period for which reasonable coverage is available commences in 2002, post cessation of the Maoist insurgency, and finishes with 2012, prior to the major earthquake. Department of Labour (DOL) and Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) provide information relating to labour movements and employment. Reports and publications from the Centre for Financial Inclusion (CFI), Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and World Bank (WB) are used and provide useful robustness checks on data. Additional data on the corporate governance of MFIs are collected through the self-reported annual financial statement and reports, and individual MFI’s websites. The study includes regulated MFIs as those outside the oversight of NRB report even less information. The final panel assembled, after careful diagnostic checking, did not satisfy the “poolability” requirements. Cross-sectional quantile regressions are used to examine nine core performance variables. The five outreach proxies, used were depth, breadth, average loan size, number of depositors and percentage of female borrowers as measures of social value creation. Four financial proxies, return on asset, return on equity, debt to equity ratio and operational self-sufficiency were used to inform consideration of sustainable financial performance. The findings illustrate that various governance variables impact differently across the quantiles for both outreach and financial performance measures. These differences in the impact of governance variables are significant, with the sign of explanatory variables changing with the independent factors. The results indicate that MFIs with bigger boards, more directors that are independent, high gender diversity, and high caste diversity have less outreach in terms of the number of credit clients. Improvement in staff productivity, larger sized MFIs, maturity of MFIs, and number of employees increase an ability to serve more borrowers. Loan size become larger with the presence of independent directors and higher gender diversity on the board, and diminish with CEO duality, staff productivity, maturity of firm, and number of employees. The range of statistically significant governance variables affecting the performance output proxies points to changes that are likely to encourage MFIs in their missions and benefits individual and the nation overall. This study can assist Nepalese MFIs to adjust their governance structures to improve their outreach and financial performance. The regulatory environment, including endemic corruption, can change to improve outcomes. The negative impact of the mandatory governance factors on MFIs outreach and financial performance indicates the need for preparing governance mechanisms for MFIs founded on country specific characteristics rather than compelling the code of practice of corporate governance mechanisms from other countries. Key principles like ethical behaviour and transparency underpin good governance but local factors are underweighted in prior research. The robust findings of this study emphasise the need for regulatory bodies, viz.: NRB, RMDC and other related organizations, to work together to formulate and develop the policies for MFIs industry. The underlying goal is to enhance financial capability to sustain a mission of outreach to uplift the poorest of the poor. The Nepalese MFIs industry needs a better regulatory framework that will enhance corporate governance to yield enhanced outcomes and MFIs industry growth. A more efficacious framework with less emphasis on rules and more enablement of sound policy formulation may flourish under the correct conditions. NRB’s Department of Microfinance Promotion and Supervision (DMPS) may be a key enabler of improved MFIs’ performance. The regulators and the MFIs industry may encourage the private MFIs into synergy with the not-for-profit MFIs, which will enhance the capability of the MFIs to reach to the poorest of the poor in the rural areas in difficult geographical region in Nepal. This study is unique to MFIs in Nepal and further research opportunities for other developing nations will promote components supporting more generalized evidence to further empower MFIs. MFIs with different governance systems in different countries may impact MFIs’ financial and social mission achievements differently. MFIs in other similar economic countries, operating with the same financial sustainability and social mission, are to be measured before any generalization.
Type of thesis
Jha, D. K. (2017). An investigation of how changes to corporate governance in Nepalese microfinance institutions may increase outreach while maintaining their financial performance. (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11358
The University of Waikato
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