Role of bank lending in sustaining income/ wealth inequality in Sri Lanka
Saliya, Candauda Arachchige
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The purpose of this PhD thesis is to make a contribution to existing knowledge in the field of critical accounting by studying credit mechanisms and their link to income/wealth inequality in Sri Lankan society and the role of accounting technology in facilitating such mechanisms. The literature review revealed that: a) Global inequality is aggravated by the disparity of economic development which is possible only through state intervention; b) Unemployment is considered as a dilemma for economic development in developing countries by most politicians/administrators/researchers; c) In any country, around 60-70 percent of employment is generated by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and; d) Their major problem is access to credit. This research was designed to find out how the credit system works and why certain SMEs do not have adequate access to credit to develop their businesses; to provide employment; to increase the share of national income to the lower income groups; to narrow down the gap between the rich and poor within and between countries. A case study research approach was followed to extract data on real-life experiences of the research participants. Reliability of data was ensured by using various verification techniques and maximum efforts were made to balance the two extremes of validity of the research; internal and external. The extent of representation by the cases and the bank was tested, and judged as high, with 12-14 characteristics common to the Sri Lankan credit culture and banking industry respectively. Marxian critical theories were used for theoretical guidance throughout the research. The three case studies provide empirical evidence for the existence of the discriminatory nature of credit decision-making where two credit applicants were successful but a third credit applicant failed in obtaining credit. It is contended that the two successful applicants were powerful enough to approach a more powerful bank Chairperson and to obtain credit outside the normal credit rules with the support of accounting technology and using masks such as patriotism and social responsibility. The other applicant, who was initially accommodated with credit at the lower level, could not convince the credit decision-makers at the higher level with expensive professionally prepared accounting reports. This applicant was not from an influential social network and could not reach the powerful credit decision-makers informally was rejected through strict application of credit rules. Deep analysis of these facts supports the Marxian claim that credit and exploitation mechanisms work towards concentration of wealth and sustaining income inequality. Credit decisions supply money to influential individuals and it is argued that such economic power enhances the social powerbase of those individuals, which in turn reinforces the propensity to make preferential credit decisions, thereby making them richer. In contrast, a lack of money translates into powerlessness, deprivation and exclusion from social activities for the majority of the poor. In this process opportunities are lost to disadvantaged social groups and this necessarily results in poor people’s economic status remaining stagnant. These power-driven, discriminatory decision-making systems not only restrict the availability of financial capital for feasible projects, but also deny credit to potential enterprises. Further, wasting resources on unfeasible projects, while ignoring the need for nurturing potentially viable projects, are a double blow to efforts towards employment generation and economic development and therefore, are detrimental to the economic well-being of the general population. These findings provide insight for policy formulators for more productive financial capital mobility systems in Sri Lanka. It is suggested that suitable State intervention in regulating SME financing could remove such credit-related obstacles to economic development, and work towards a fair distribution of economic benefits to the people in Sri Lanka and beyond.