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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Low interest loans for Latin Americans
Latin American women - targeted to receive loans
Low population densities have hindered the growth of micro-credit schemes
By BBC Central America correspondent, Nick Miles from Mexico City

Delegates from more than 50 countries have gathered in the town of Puebla in central Mexico for the start of a micro-credit conference for Latin American nations.

Micro-credit programmes provide low interest loans for the economically marginalised who cannot gain access to credit from conventional banks.

Latin America accounts for just 3% of the 30 million people reached by the schemes.

The summit is taking place amidst a worsening global economic situation which is likely to have a disproportionately harsh effect on the world's poor.

This is the first micro-credit summit to specifically target Latin America.

The region has lagged behind the rest of the world in developing credit schemes for the poor.

While countries such as Bangladesh started micro-credit programmes in the 1970s, low population densities in many areas of rural Latin America have meant that micro-credit schemes have been seen as economically unviable in the region.

The summit aims to change that perception, sharing the experience and best practices of credit schemes from around the world.

The choice of Mexico as the host for this summit is apt.

It sends more than 80% of its exports to the United States and the slowdown there has hit Mexico's economy hard.

Some 400,000 Mexican jobs have been lost so far this year.

Many of the new jobless will join the 15 million Mexicans working in the informal economy.

As well as looking at the development of micro-credit schemes targeting the growing ranks of Latin America's unemployed, delegates at the Puebla summit will also discuss ways of more effectively targeting women as recipients of loans across the region.

See also:

08 Jun 01 | Correspondent
The magic bean
08 Sep 01 | Americas
Mexico urges regional co-operation
11 Sep 01 | Business
World Bank pushes anti-poverty drive
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