News & Highlights What’s Happening 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina's Center for Financial and Credit Counseling

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Center for Financial and Credit Counseling

What if there were a place where microfinance clients could go to get answers to their most difficult questions about credit and debt?

In 2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was beginning to feel the effects of the global financial crisis, and delinquency rates among microfinance clients were on the rise. Leaders of several BiH microfinance institutions – MI-BOSPO, EKI and Partner – came together to establish a center that would do just this for their clients. Other support includes the IFC and EFSE who provided a feasibility study which led to the establsihment of the center and DFID who provided the initial funds. Other supporters are joining as the initiative gathers momentum. For example, last year the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Center’s board and is currently helping with concrete support.

With initial support on various levels, the Center for Financial and Credit Counseling was launched in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in December 2009. Its mission is to address issues of over-indebtedness, provide financial education and counseling, and address the problems of lack of transparency in the BiH financial sector.

Center for Financial and Credit Counseling

Adnan Mesic, the Center’s Director (pictured above along with the Center’s Mirela Kuduzovic and Aleksandra Zilic), informed us that the Center is currently hiring staff – a director, office manager, two financial advisors and one legal advisor – and will be launching operations in the Spring of 2010. In its first year, the Center intends to focus its activities mainly on education and capacity building.

Services are free and available to all BiH citizens, and include:

  • A national credit information helpline;
  • Mediation services for over-indebted clients with legal and repayment issues;
  • A monthly mobile financial education program that travels to cities outside of Tuzla;
  • One-on-one financial and credit counseling on issues such as budgeting, and advice on how to take on debt; and
  • Materials about social services and consumer rights in local languages and with pictorials.

The Center also engages in advocacy targeted at creating better laws to protect clients from burdening debt and is collaborating with community stakeholders in order to expand their services to reach all of the citizens of BiH in coming years.

For Mesic, the Center is both exciting and challenging because it is the first of its kind: “It may be too late to proactively resolve issues of the current borrowers, our efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina are to create a network of debt advice offices, supported by legal changes, and to perform educational services that will lay the foundation for a system of tools and services that protect borrowers when the next economic crisis comes around.”


 
 

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