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34 D+C Vol.42.2015:1 TYM allows 100,000 poor and low- income women easy access loans that are worth up to 30 million dong (the equivalent of $ 1,400). Women use the loans to invest in small businesses that generate incomes in support of their fami- lies’ livelihoods. In this regard, this micro- finance institution (MFI) is like many others all over the world. TYM is owned by the Vietnam Wom- en’s Union (VWU), a non-governmental organisation that is aligned to the coun- try’s ruling Communist Party. The mission is to improve clients’ socio-economic situ- ation. It also offers savings schemes that are safe and convenient. TYM clients are insured if they or family members die or must be hospitalised. Moreover, TYM in- vites clients to participate in a variety of social events and training activities. Almost 400 TYM staff serve clients with commitment and growing profes- sionalism. The officers are personally dedi- cated to their work because they are from the communities they serve. In contrast to many commercial banks, TYM’s incentive system does not only take into account fi- nancial results but also assesses the qual- ity of advice and related services. The MFI is promoting professional skills and perfor- mance. In the long run, the parent organisa- tion intends to turn the TYM into a full- blown savings bank according to the Ger- man model (see box next page) while focusing on female clientele. The purpose is to promote financial inclusion in the sense of granting everyone access to the services the financial sector provides. The Vietnamese are a resilient, smart and entrepreneurial people. Their coun- try’s history is full of heroic struggles against foreign invaders. In 1986, the Communist government started an eco- nomic reform programme (“Doi Moi”), and the nation has since witnessed spectacu- lar growth rates. A quarter century ago, Vietnam was one of the world’s poorest countries, but the World Bank now ranks it as a lower middle-income country with an annual GNP per capita of about $ 1,250. Government action Microfinance has contributed to develop- ment, and the government has played the dominant role in the sector. In the early 1990ies, the state-owned Bank for Agri­ culture and Rural Development set up a branch that disbursed small loans at low interest rates. This branch later became the Vietnam Bank for Social Policy (VBSP), which still belongs to the government and now provides cheap credit to about 7 mil- lion people. VBSP has a huge impact on its clients, as well as on the financial system and the economy in general. According to its own data, the bank has helped over 3 million people to escape poverty and several mil- lions more to improve housing, send chil- dren to school or create jobs. Moreover, other government-backed banks and co- operatives called People’s Credit Funds are also providing loans to poor and low-in- come households. On paper, there is an excellent outreach to about 10 million to 12 million borrowers. Loans Vietnam’s leading microfinance institution TYM wants to become a full-fledged bank. The goal is to promote financial inclusion of women all over the country. Challenges ahead By Duong Thi Ngoc Linh and Jörg Teumer Dembowski TYM microcredit client in a village in the Red River Delta.