Argentina: Dutch Princess touts micro-lending to fight global poverty

Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, a former investment banker from Argentina married to Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, lobbied Tuesday for greater use of small business loans to eradicate poverty.

The former Maxima Zorreguieta promoted new micro-lending and small business loans to help poor but enterprising communities currently shut off from traditional credit. "Many people are creative and entrepreneurial, but if they're poor, they don't have access to financial services," said the princess during a conference on micro-lending foundations. "Until now, this sector of the population has not been interesting to commercial banks. However, it's time to change that mentality."

Earlier this week, the 34-year-old princess toured broom-making and potato chip factories, and farms in the northernmost province of Jujuy, as part of a tour to help a U.N.-backed campaign. Dubbed the "International Year of Microcredit 2005," the campaign promotes small business loans to entrepreneurs as a way to expand stagnant economies and curb poverty. The Dutch princess has traveled to Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and other countries this year as an adviser in the campaign.

In Argentina, about 14 million people, or nearly 40 percent of the population, live in poverty a key challenge to South America's second-largest economy since its devastating financial tailspin of 2002.

Zorreguieta, who was born and educated in Buenos Aires, held banking jobs in New York and in Europe before marrying Willem-Alexander in 2002. She remains a popular figure both at home and in the Netherlands, reported AP. P.T.

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