Former Finance Minister M Syeduzzaman said poor people of relatively less developed districts have little access to microfinance compared with the developed areas of the country.
"But micro-credit has played a significant role in the emergence of rural working women and wellbeing of small farmers," he said while speaking as the chief guest at a workshop styled 'Partnership in Microfinance to increase Outreach' held at the CIRDAP auditorium Monday.
He underscored the need for establishment of upazila level micro-credit banks for providing loans to the poor people.
Microfinance has been given little importance in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), he said
Syeduzzaman, also the chairman of the Bank Asia, said Grameen Bank (GB) and BRAC have brought a new dimension in the national economy through providing loans to the poor people in the rural areas.
The workshop, organised by the Credit and Development Forum (CDF), was chaired by economist Atiur Rahman.
Economists, bankers and NGO officials told the workshop that microfinancing would suffer most in the event of any major financial crisis as the country's central bank was yet to bring microfinance institutions (MFIs) under a regulatory framework.
"The microfinance will be the most vulnerable area of economic activity in the event of a major financial crisis as this sector is yet to be given a legal shape like that of banks," said economist Atiur Rahman.
Any blow to this sector means a good number of women will face problems, as most borrowers of microcredit are women, Atiur said while addressing the workshop as the chairperson.
Atiur said time has come for the private banks to make partnership with the microfinance institutions (MFIs) as they have already proved success in poverty reduction and loan realisations.
The participants at the workshop agreed that the poverty level had not declined much over the last two decades.
"We are failing to reduce the poverty to an optimum level through microfinance as we are mainly focusing on financing in urban areas. The microcredit is not going to the poorest of the poor for whom this concept of financing has been developed," said managing director of Pubali Bank Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled at the workshop as a special guest.
Microfinance is needed at least to help poor people survive although it does not make any big contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), Khaled said.
He said the existing gap between urban and rural economy should be minimised. Microfinance can play a significant role in this connection, he added.
He said only 5.0 per cent of the population is enjoying 80 per cent of the country's wealth, whereas the remaining 95 per cent people are being deprived of the fortune.
Experts representing different institutions presented research papers on microfinance.
Asadul Islam of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in his presentation on 'Microfinance in Bangladesh: An Overview' said at least 1200 NGOs are giving microcredit to the poor across the country.
Approximately 200 NGOs have large micro-credit programmes dominated by BRAC, Grameen Bank, ASA and Proshika, he said.
Mentioning a World Bank (WB) report Asadul Islam said there are 19.3 million beneficiaries of microcredit, of which the big four MFIs count for 13.7 million.