Microfinance services which refer to the provision of microcredit services to the low income people in the society through groups have been used since three decade ago as a corner stone for poverty alleviation (Islam 2007). Professor Mohammed Yunnus started the program in Bangladesh in 1970s and it involves extension of loans to the vulnerable and poor groups in the society. However, after its inception in the country and having worked well to uplift the standard of living of the citizens, most of the developing countries decided to use the system. The program has proved to be fundamental in poverty alleviation in the globe. Our visit in the Latin American countries (Cuba and Dominican Republic) revealed how microfinance program can alleviate poverty.
The two countries started applying the program together back in 1990s but from the research and observation we made, Cuban citizens continues to wallow in high poverty level and lack opportunities regardless of the free medical and educational service offered by the government. On the other hand, the Dominican Republic citizens, whose government has cooperated with the Esperanza .Inc company to provide the microfinance services tries to march proudly out of the poverty ditches wealthy of opportunities ahead for better life. This paper contains an in-depth analysis of the poverty and poverty alleviation measure adopted by the two countries. The information was based on past experience we had on a visit to Dominican Republic and then to Habana and Santiago de Cuba towns in Cuba. We interviewed and observed the peoples ways of life and standard about the microfinance services. We had an opportunity to analyze the standard of living of the people and visit local churches in Cuba to see how donations and microfinance services are offered. We had even an opportunity to meet the Esperanza International Microfinance service providers, who have been in the two countries for Decade.
Since independence, Cuba had Socialistic form of governance, where the resources belong to the states and all people have equitable right of use and access to them. It had full aid support from the Soviet Empire, which was against capitalism used by the United State of America. After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1990s, Cuba suffered series of economic downturns which saw the country poverty level rise at an alarming rate. This did not make the country to escape a series of Coup d’état meaning that the governments were no longer there to alleviate poverty among the Cuban citizens. As a move to eliminate poverty, the government gave the catholic a right to open a relief office in 1991 at Caritas Cabana. In 1993, the conditions of high poverty level saw the Catholic Church form Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which was given all government donations to distribute to the poor and vulnerable groups in the society.
In order to blind the world that appropriate actions had been instituted to eliminate poverty, the government continued to promote socialism and only developed specified areas such as Habana town, which lies along the coastline of the country and a major tourist attraction centre. This fools the tourists to believe that Cuban Government is doing great to alleviate poverty. On the other parts of the country such as Santiago de Cuba, urban dwellers have no opportunities to uplift their lives. Mostly, they depend on prostitution and gambling to earn a living. This has agitated spread of HIV/AIDS in the region. The government uses propagandas and threat to silence the poor citizens whenever they raise an alarm. This has led to poverty increment amid of free medical and educational services offered.
On the other hand, our visit in Dominican Republic reveals that the country adopted capitalistic form of governance, which has promoted individual creation of wealth and a man for himself. The citizen of the country takes opportunity of each life chances that come across for example, the microfinance services provided by the Esperanza Incorporation together with other international financial stakeholders. They are active gamblers and most of them have used the loans services to start own businesses such as butcheries and shops. Lack of propagandas and existence of liberalized government have attracted many international companies to support the government in fighting poverty. This has also provided an ample environment to the Esperanza Company to provide the microfinance services to the poor citizens.
A further step has been taken by the government of DR, where it has supported the move by the Esperanza Company to engage in University, where students are encouraged to participate in the researching on how poverty level in the country can be reduced. This has given the society more time to mingle with the company and to harness new opportunities necessary to upgrade their standards of living. The Esperanza Incorporation has now spread offices all over the country and in Haiti from the Hispaniola Island where it initially settled.
At this point, it is imperative to find out why the two countries have different poverty levels yet they are served by the same Incorporation. The answer is very simple as both Cuba and Dominican Republic uses different methods to alleviate poverty. This can be analyzes under the following topic.