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Transparency, India, Gandhi, and the Seven Deadly Social Sins

Published on March 11, 2010

by Chuck Waterfield

A few weeks ago I made an unplanned and very interesting trip to India. MFTransparency had no plans of working in India this year, but a broad group of stakeholders in the India microfinance industry had been discussing the need for pricing transparency and then invited us to come and meet with them.  We met and heard them describe their desire to transition to transparent prices and their need to have our team help to facilitate that transition.  We connected quickly, brought together by shared commitment to treat people fairly.  Plans for implementation are now moving forward rapidly.

When beginning dialogue about pricing transparency in a given country, our experience in the past year has been consistently positive.  The need to correct this problem is evident in most countries, but working with the national industry to determine the steps forward has moved especially fast in India.  MFIs in India are currently making a strong effort to independently practice pricing transparency .

I was both intrigued and inspired by this.  And though my trip was just a few days long, I did find opportunity to go and visit Gandhi’s memorial.  I’ve always been greatly inspired by Gandhi’s views of how we should live and how we should address the problems we confront in the world, but I had never had opportunity to visit his memorial.   Many people  were congregated around Gandhi’s memorial, mostly Indians and many of them children, all expressing their solemn respect.

During my visit, I also spent some time reflecting on Gandhi’s list of the Seven Deadly Social Sins.  This list is powerful.  I encourage you to read it carefully and thoughtfully:

The Seven Deadly Social Sins

  1. Politics without principle
  2. Wealth without work
  3. Commerce without morality
  4. Pleasure without conscience
  5. Education without character
  6. Science without humanity
  7. Worship without sacrifice

You may have been wondering why I am pulling together Indian pricing transparency and Gandhi’s memorial in the same article, but after reading the list I hope it is now clearer.  I believe that the broad desire in India to be transparent about the prices they charge to the poor is consistent with a commitment to avoid practicing the seven deadly social sins that Gandhi identified.

We can all continue to learn from Gandhi and other leaders who remind us  of these foundational values of responsibility that have been handed down through several thousand years of recorded history.  Change requires us as individuals to take the initiative to move forward in our practices.  We then work to instill those values in our organizations, and then we all work together as an industry.  That is what we are seeing take place right now in the microfinance industry.

“A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole.”

M. Gandhi

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  1. jbauchet1 says:

    I have a question not directly related to this post, but that maybe you guys can address in another post. What is the relationship between interest rate transparency and financial literacy? It seems to me that transparency has 2 sides: (1) lenders being honest and clear about the costs of loans they provide, and (2) how borrowers and potential borrowers understand the information disclosed (or not) by the lenders. Is MFTransparency involved in financial literacy? How do you see these two things working together?

  2. jessica-mft says:

    Thanks for your comment! Please have a look at our recent post on pricing transparency at the consumer level: http://www.mftransparency.org/pages/2010/03/15/in

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