Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Victory For The Poor

Professor Mohammad Yunus, and economist and his Grameen Bank have won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, and I have already posted that news yesterday.

Mr. Yunus's drive and insight was simple, and is worth quoting: "Charity is not the answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue." He realised that, even if the vast amount of Western aid reached its intended targets, it would merely create dependency and suppress initiative. His solution was to start at the bottom – to offer small loans, at commercial rates of interest, to those in his native Bangladesh with no collateral and no credit rating. It was, in essence, a gamble on the goodwill and industry of humanity."

Now small has become big. Yunus is a great organiser. He mobilised support not just with his own government in Bangladesh but also from international development agencies.

Although not a household name in the west, Mr Yunus is a familiar name on the international development circuit where he is known as "banker to the world's poor". Such was his reputation that in 1987, when Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas, he approached Mr Yunus to help them replicate its model in his state.

Yunus passionately believes that, like freedom of speech, credit is a fundamental human right and everybody should have access to it.

It is not the fault of poor people that they are poor. The West and the International Community can learn a lesson from Yunus, a lesson on how to pull the world’s poorest out of destitution and beat poverty.

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