ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Saibal GhoshSubscribe to Saibal Ghosh

Financial Literacy and Financial Inclusion

Using district-level data, the effect of financial literacy centres on financial inclusion in India is investigated. There is evidence of an improvement in the use of bank accounts over time. Robustness tests suggest that banks with a strong capital position and asset quality are more inclusive through their financial literacy centres, and the traditional bank agents continue playing an important role in this process despite non-traditional channels like mobile telephony. Yet, the findings show that the overall impact of financial literacy on bank account ownership is still limited. The analysis raises useful policy pointers to address those impediments that plague the process.

Deciphering Financial Literacy in India

Utilising a nationally representative data set, an index of financial literacy consisting of financial knowledge, behaviour, and attitude is constructed. The findings suggest significant variation in financial literacy across states with an over 60 percentage point difference between the state with the highest financial literacy and that with the lowest. Multivariate regressions show that there exist large and statistically significant gender-, location-, employment-, education-, technology-, and debt-driven differences in financial literacy. Much of the observed regional divergence persists even after we control for cohort effects.

Did MGNREGS Improve Financial Inclusion?

Utilising household-level data, this paper investigates the impact of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme on financial inclusion. Exploiting the staggered timing of the roll-out of the programme across districts, while controlling for its non-random implementation, it is found that MGNREGS improves financial access. This is confirmed in simple univariate tests as well as in multivariate regressions that take into account several district- and household-level controls. The evidence, however, is less compelling when the use of finance is examined, although there is a differential impact for districts with higher proportion of women. The magnitudes in most cases are quite large and suggest that public works programme can positively influence financial inclusion.

Furthering the Financial Inclusion Agenda in India

Exploiting household level survey data, this paper analyses the interface between gender and financial inclusion. The multivariate regressions that take on board several household and state-level controls suggest significant disparities in both the access to as well as the use of finance. More specifically, female-headed households are 10% less likely to access formal finance as compared to households that are headed by males. Similar evidence carries over to the use of finance as well. From a policy standpoint, the paper highlights several policy interventions which can serve the cause of greater financial inclusion of women in the country.

Monetary Policy and Informal Finance

This article utilises state-level data for 1961-2012 to examine the interlinkage between informal finance and monetary policy. The analysis suggests that in response to a monetary contraction, borrowing from moneylenders declines, whereas that from landlords and relatives increases. In addition, the evidence also supports a hierarchy among the preferred financing choices. A key takeaway is that monetary policy needs to take on board its impact on the hitherto neglected informal sector.

Basel II and Bank Lending Behaviour

The new Basel accord is slated to come into effect in India around 2007 raising the question of how the revised standards will influence bank behaviour. Using a simple theoretical model, it is shown that the revised accord will result in asymmetric differences in the efficacy of monetary policy in influencing bank lending. This will, however, depend on a number of factors, including whether banks are constrained by the risk-based capital standards, the credit quality of bank assets and the relative liquidity of banks' balance sheets. The basic model is empirically explored using data on Indian commercial banks for the period 1996-2004. The analysis indicates that the effect of a contractionary monetary policy will be significantly mitigated provided the proportion of unconstrained to constrained banks in the system is significantly high.

Monetary Policy and Bank Behaviour

This article develops an empirical model to explore the role that bank characteristics play in influencing the monetary transmission process. Employing data on Indian commercial banks for the period 1992-2004, the findings indicate that for banks classified according to size and capitalisation, a monetary contraction lowers bank lending, although large and well-capitalised banks are able to shield their loan portfolio from monetary shocks.

Bank Nominee Directors and Corporate Performance

Banks and financial institutions play a major role in governance of non-financial companies in India through the mechanism of nominee directors. This paper probes two allied issues: firstly, the isolation of the firm specific factors which determine the presence of bank nominee directors on boards and secondly, whether companies, with bank nominee directors exhibit better performance/governance than companies with no banker representation on their boards. A Probit model estimated over a cross-section of Indian manufacturing firms for 2003, indicates that bankers on boards seem to exert a healthy impact on the companies. In fact, large public limited companies are likely to exhibit banker representation, primarily in their role as expertise providers. The evidence from Tobit model reconfirms these results.

Market Discipline, Capital Adequacy

The policy debate with regard to financial intermediaries has focused on whether, and to what extent, governments should impose capital adequacy requirements on banks, or alternately, whether market forces could also ensure the stability of banking systems. This paper contributes to the debate by showing how market forces may motivate banks to select high capital adequacy ratios as a means of lowering their borrowing costs. If the effect of competition among banks is strong, then it may overcome the tendency for bank under-capitalisation that arises from systemic effects. If systemic effects are strong, regulation is required. An empirical test for Indian public sector banks during the 1990s demonstrates that better capitalised banks experienced lower borrowing costs. These findings suggest that ongoing reform efforts at the international level should primarily focus on increasing transparency and strengthening competition among banks.


Back to Top