Regulatory Measures Can Curb Debt Stress While Developing Responsible Credit Markets

Mar 20, 2013, 10:00 ET from CGAP

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The right package of regulations can rein in reckless lending while allowing development of healthy credit markets that extend access to underserved households and very small businesses, according to a report published by CGAP today. The report Regulatory Options to Curb Debt Stress offers a policy framework for preventing and managing debt stress, which occurs when individual households or whole market segments become over-indebted.



Regulators in lower-income countries aim to strike the right balance: encouraging broader access to credit for the household segment as a whole while discouraging reckless lending to those at risk of getting over-extended. Outlining specific regulatory approaches for early-stage and more mature markets, the report highlights indicators – such as rapid growth in the number of lenders targeting the household credit segment, the size of their portfolios and average loan sizes, or debt collection activity – that regulators can use to monitor this credit market and get an early warning when the risk of debt stress is increasing.

"While debt stress is a warning sign to the credit market, it is also a sign of the success of previous strategies for credit expansion and financial inclusion," commented Gabriel Davel, former CEO of the South Africa National Credit Regulator and author of the report. "The challenge for countries lies in developing regulatory strategies that deal with the risks of increasing credit access rather than rolling back commercialization of the sector."

The report explains how household credit markets are prone to cycles of rapid growth, consumer debt build-up, and overheating. Understanding these cycles has significant implications, and can help regulators detect debt stress early and inform appropriate policy responses to rein in undesirable credit practices and product features.

"Debt stress can harm borrowers and lenders alike. As we have seen, it can also result in serious social unrest and political interference," said Katharine McKee, Senior Advisor at CGAP. "We hope that this report will provide policy makers with appropriate options to address the causes of debt stress early on in the credit market development cycle."

The report draws on specific country examples such as South Africa and Peru to show policy responses to cycles of aggressive lending and over-indebtedness in the consumer credit sector, proactively using a range of regulatory, enforcement and non-regulatory measures (such as consumer awareness campaigns and industry responsible lending initiatives) to illustrate such policy options.  The report offers multiple country examples and detailed analysis of each option and how it can be applied.

Download the full report on

About CGAP
CGAP (The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) is the world's leading resource for the advancement of microfinance. CGAP provides the financial industry, governments and investors with objective information, expert opinion, and innovative solutions to effectively expand access to finance for poor people around the world. More information: