Pakistani-American Prof's Tool Helps SME Financing in Emerging Economies

Pakistani-American Prof. Asim Khwaja and his doctoral student Bailey Klinger at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government observed that banks have money to lend, but even profitable small businesses in developing nations often cannot access it, choking growth.

Prof Asim Khwaja of Harvard's Kennedy School
Looking into the reasons, they found it was the lack of access to tools like credit agency reports and FICO credit scores which are common in developed economies. This discovery gave birth to Entrepreneurial Finance Lab to develop alternative tools for bankers to assess risks to lend money to small business owners. Their basic tool is a multiple-choice psychometric test. Here's how New York Times describes it:

The lab’s model asks questions that do not necessarily have a right answer; using an algorithm, it aims to predict whether an individual is likely to default based on how the answers relate to one another. For example, to assess their sense of personal control over outcomes — which tends to correlate with loan repayment — respondents might be asked to rate how much they agree or disagree with the statement: “I believe in the power of fate.” Another question on risk tolerance might ask them to choose between opposing responses with equal social desirability, such as: “I plan for every eventuality,” “I’m in between” or “Planning takes the fun out of life.” There are some unexpected findings: Optimism and self-confidence are good signs among seasoned entrepreneurs, but high levels in younger business owners do not bode well, statistically. And the math and reasoning questions meant to measure fluid intelligence can also assess integrity — of the loan officer. Too many correct answers can reveal that an applicant was coached.

Banks in 16 developing countries are now using EFL's psychometric test to lend money to owners small and medium size businesses. Bank financing of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is good for both the borrowers and the lenders as well as the national economy. It's a great source of revenue and income for the financial institutions. It helps small businesses grow and create jobs. In developed economies like the United States, SMEs create about half of all business activity and almost two-thirds of employment growth. In poor nations, such enterprises, on average, account for only about 17 percent of spending and one-third of new jobs.

Asim Khwaja is Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Here's his bio as posted on Harvard's Center For International Development website: "His areas of interest include economic development, finance, education, political economy, institutions, and contract theory/mechanism design. His research combines extensive fieldwork, rigorous empirical analysis, and microeconomic theory to answer questions that are motivated by and engage with policy. It has been published in the leading economics journals, such as the American Economic Review, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and has received coverage in numerous media outlets such as the Economist, NY Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Al-Jazeera, BBC, and CNN. His recent work ranges from understanding market failures in emerging financial markets to examining the private education market in low-income countries. He was selected as a Carnegie Scholar in 2009 to pursue research on how religious institutions impact individual beliefs. Khwaja received BS degrees in economics and in mathematics with computer science from MIT and a PhD in economics from Harvard. A Pakistani, UK, and US citizen, he was born in London, U.K., lived for eight years in Kano, Nigeria, the next eight in Lahore, Pakistan, and the last eighteen years in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He continues to enjoy interacting with people around the globe".

State of Bank of Pakistan's policies  have catapulted Pakistan to the top of the  list for microfinance in Asia. Pakistan ranks first in Asia and third in the world in Economist Intelligence Unit's overall microfinance business environment rankings. Similar support for SME sector loans can help stimulate the national economy, grow tax base and create much needed jobs to lift more people out of poverty. Tools like the EFL's psychometric test can be deployed as part of this effort to grow the SME sector.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

IBA's Entrepreneurship Report

Microfinance in Pakistan

Karachi Slum Girl at Harvard Business School

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani-#American Prof Asim Khwaja appointed faculty director of the Center for International Development at #Harvard Kennedy School. He's also co-founder of the Center for Economic Research in #Pakistan. #economics #finance

Harvard Kennedy School has named Asim Ijaz Khwaja as the faculty director of the School’s Center for International Development (CID). Khwaja serves as the Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development at the Kennedy School, and he will remain in that position. He will start his additional appointment as director of CID on July 1, 2019.

“I am delighted that Asim has agreed to serve as faculty director of the Center for International Development at Harvard Kennedy School,” said Dean Douglas Elmendorf. “The Center and School will be well served by Asim’s deep knowledge and experience in international development and by his proven leadership of large research initiatives with direct practical implications.”

Khwaja has been a co-faculty director of the Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) program at CID for the past decade and will continue as an EPoD faculty affiliate. He is also co-founder of the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan. Khwaja’s areas of interest include economic development, finance, education, political economy, public finance, and institutions. His research combines extensive fieldwork, rigorous empirical analysis, and microeconomic theory to answer questions that are motivated by and engage with policy.

“I am thrilled to take up this position and grateful for the opportunity to lead the important work of the center. Under Ricardo’s leadership, the center’s reach has greatly expanded. I hope to continue this expansion by leveraging the amazing talent and opportunities at Harvard to help address some of the most pressing problems we face in the world today,” Khwaja said.

Khwaja succeeds Ricardo Hausmann as director of CID. “Asim is distinguished by his energy, excellence, and commitment to research that can help create a positive and lasting impact. I am delighted that he will lead CID,” said Hausmann, who is also a professor of the practice of international development at the Kennedy School.

Dean Elmendorf commented: “Ricardo Hausmann has led the Center for International Development with great vision and dedication for 14 years, creating an environment of innovation for faculty research and a strong development community for our students. Under Ricardo’s leadership, the center has grown immensely, and I am very grateful for his service. Moreover, Ricardo’s work around the world has shown that the combination of academic insight and practitioner’s experience can create significant positive impacts on public policy. I am delighted that we can honor Ricardo’s contributions by naming him the Rafik Hariri Professor of the Practice of International Political Economy.” That appointment also will be effective in July.

The Center for International Development advances the understanding of development challenges and offers viable solutions to problems of global poverty. It is Harvard's leading research hub focusing on resolving the dilemmas of public policy associated with generating stable, shared, and sustainable prosperity in developing countries.

Popular posts from this blog

Pakistani Women's Growing Particpation in Workforce

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Plane

Pakistan's Saadia Zahidi Leads World Economic Forum's Gender Parity Effort