n South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences - Informal financial transactions and monetary policy in low-income countries : interpolated informal credit and interest rates in Malawi - original research

Volume 21 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1015-8812
  • E-ISSN: 2222-3436



Background: Official monetary data usually exclude informal financial transactions although the informal financial sector (IFS) forms a large part of the financial sector in low-income countries. 

Aim and setting: Excluding informal financial transactions in official monetary data, however, underestimates the volume of financial transactions and incorrectly presents the cost of credit, bringing into question the accuracy of expected effects of monetary policy on economic activity. 

Methods: Using IFS data for Malawi constructed from two survey data sets, indigenous knowledge and elements of Friedman’s data interpolation technique, this study employs innovation accounting in a structural vector autoregressive model to compare monetary policy outcomes when IFS data are taken into account and when they are not. 

Results: The study finds evidence that in certain instances, the formal and informal financial sectors complement each other. For example, it is observed that the rate of inflation as well as output increase following a rise in either formal financial sector (FFS) or IFS lending. Further investigation reveals that in other cases, the FFS and IFS work in conflict with each other. Demonstrating this point, the study finds that a rise in FFS interest rates is followed by a decline in FFS lending while IFS lending does not respond significantly and the response of FFS and IFS loans combined is insignificant. When IFS interest rates are raised, total loans decline significantly. 

Conclusion: The study, therefore, concludes that exclusion of IFS transactions from official monetary data has the potential to frustrate monetary policy through wrong inferences on the impact of monetary policy on economic activity.

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