[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 16, 1998]
[Page 575]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks in a Discussion on Microenterprise in Santiago, Chile
April 16, 1998

    Audience member. Mr. President, in your country, does 
microenterprise exist? Is there any special legislation for 
microenterprise? Do you have any support programs like we have here?
    The President. First of all, yes, it exists. And in the more 
prosperous areas of America, people can simply go to established 
training programs, as you have described, and then they typically will 
go to work for someone else, or if there is a demand there, they can 
often--can get credit from a bank and borrow money.
    But in the poorer areas of America--because, keep in mind, there are 
still some parts of our country which are much poorer than others, 
mostly in the inner cities of our large cities, in some neighborhoods, 
or in some of our rural areas, or with some of our native Indian 
populations, where people are living a long way from the center of 
economic activity. And the truth is that in some places there are 
special programs to give credits, but in most places there aren't.
    Now, when Hillary and I were living at home in Arkansas, we helped 
to start a bank to lend to small-business people with a special program 
for microentrepreneurs, for very small loans to people who were poor but 
who had good skills, good reputation, clearly would pay the money back. 
And then when I became President, we worked to pass through the Congress 
a modest program--as Mrs. Frei said, within the budget--but a modest 
program to set up institutions like this all across America.
    In addition to that, we have, through our foreign aid programs--we 
are trying to support people like you all over the world. I just--we 
visited in Africa with some microentrepreneurs just recently. And every 
year, through our programs, we make about 2 million small loans across 
the world to people like you, because you really are the future of all 
these countries. I mean, if people like you--the stories you've told, 
that is the future. And as far as I know, the worst repayment rate 
anywhere in the world for microenterprise loans--the worst--is 97 
percent. Some countries that have terrible weather problems, poor people 
go broke if they have a bad storm and they can't pay it back, and it 
drops all the way to 97 percent. Otherwise, it's always 99, 100 percent; 
you know, the people pay it back. So that's why I wanted to hear your 
    But on the other hand, I agree with Mrs. Frei 
that the most important thing is to first have the training, because if 
you have it in your head--still many people find a way to get into 
business, to save or to borrow or to whatever.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 1:20 p.m. in the San Miguel 
neighborhood. In his remarks, he referred to Marta Frei, wife of 
President Eduardo Frei of Chile. A tape was not available for 
verification of the content of these remarks.