Grameen Bank was started in 1976 by Muhammad Yunus as an experimental project to combat rural poverty by providing credit to the very poor in 1983 Grameen Bank became established as a formal bank which provides small, collateral-free credit to rural poor rural people mainly women, for income-generating activities. As of July, 2005, Grameen Bank disbursed $5.0 billion in loans to 5.0 million borrowers, 96 per cent of them women, with a repayment rate of 99%. It June 2005 it lents out about $ 2.5 million-a-day (working day ) in tiny loans averaging around $130.
In late 2003, Grameen Bank embarked on a new program, exclusively targeted for the beggars in Bangladesh. Begging is chosen by many poor people in Bangladesh, as a result of river erosion, divorce, death of earning member in the family, unemployment or disability, and for many becomes a lifetime occupation. Beggars in Bangladesh are not reached by most of the poverty alleviation interventions and subsist on the margins of society. The Struggling (Beggar) Members Program is a new initiative taken by Grameen Bank to confront a sustained campaign that microcredit cannot be used by the people belonging to the lowest rung of poverty, as well as to reinforce the Bank’s campaign that credit should be accepted as a human right Continue reading
Halving Poverty By 2015
–We Can Actually Make It Happen
Delivered at the Commonwealth Institute, London on March 11, 2003
I am very honoured to have been invited to give the Commonwealth Lecture 2003. This is a great privilege for me. I would like to take advantage of this occasion to share my experiences, excitements, frustrations, and, of course, my thoughts with you. (If it makes sense to you, I hope you’ll use your capacity to do something about it. If it doesn’t make any sense, I don’t have to tell you what you should do. You are all experts on it.)
I have chosen to speak on the most daring of all Millennium Development Goals ? halving poverty by 2015. I have chosen it for two reasons. First, this is the most courageous goal mankind ever set for itself. For the last two decades I have been talking about creating a world free from poverty. I talk about it not because it is unjust to have a world with poverty, which is, of course, true. I talk about it simply because I am totally convinced from my experience of working with poor people that they can get themselves out of poverty if we give them the same or similar opportunities as we give to others. The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world ? all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them. Secondly, a feeling is getting stronger in me everyday that very few people are really serious about reaching the goal of halving poverty by 2015. Leaders who made this bold announcement went back to their other important commitments feeling happy that they have captured world’s imagination. As the decision has been taken at the highest level, they expect that actions will follow, and a well coordinated powerful machinery will get activated to get the job done. Unfortunately, so far it has not happened. Only the donor agency officials supported by thriving consultancy business are carrying the ball. What is emerging reminds us of the decade of nineties when the global goals were put in the form of “Education for all by the year 2000”, “Health for all by the year 2000”, “Everything else for all by the 2000”. My worry is that these courageous millennium goals may degenerate into a cut and paste job of the earlier edition, merely replacing the “year 2000” by the “year 2015”, with appropriate changes in the text.
Please forgive me if I sound too pessimistic. I assure you that I remain a compulsive optimist despite all the bad signs that I see. I keep hoping that these signs will change.
I am an optimist because I am convinced that poverty is not as difficult a subject as the experts keep warning us about. This is not about space science, or about an intricate design of a complicated machine. This is about people. I don’t see the possibility of a human being becoming a ‘problem’ when it comes to his or her own well-being. All the ingredients for ending poverty of a person always comes neatly packaged with the person himself. A human being is born in this world fully equipped not only to take care of himself (which all other life-forms can do too), but also to contribute in enlarging the well-being of the world as a whole (that’s where special role of a human being lies). Then why should one billion plus people on the planet suffer through a life-time of misery and indignity and spend every moment of their lives looking for food for physical survival alone ? We must find some explanations. This will help us achieve the 2015 goal. Continue reading
Microcredit Global Picture
Microcredit Summit of 1997 set the goal to reach 100 million poorest families with microcredit, along with other financial services, preferably through the women in those families by 2005. In the recently held Microcredit Summit +5 in NY, we have just reviewed the progress towards achieving this goal during the last five years. Figures compiled by the Microcredit Summit Campaign show that by the end of 2001, more that 54 million families around the world have benefited from microcredit. Of this number, 26.8 million are among the poorest, or those who live under US $ 1 a day. This is impressive progress from 1997 when we could count only 7.6 million poorest families.
These figures are based on the best available third-party verified institutional data collected from over two thousand organizations that are working to implement the Summit goal of 2005. I made a guess that by the end of 2002 we’ll have reached at least 35 million poorest families with microcredit. If this turns out to be close to the real figure, this would indeed be significant progress. This would mean that we have crossed over a quarter of the path by 2001 and over a third of the path by 2002, and most likely we’ll cross the half-way mark or 50 million families, by 2003. Once we cross the half-way mark, we’ll be better equipped psychologically and institutionally to cover the remaining half of the long journey. If this works out, it will mean that we have a good chance to make it to 100 million, or reasonably close to it, by 2005. Continue reading
Capitalism is Interpreted too Narrowly
Many of the problems in the world remain unresolved because we continue to interpret capitalism too narrowly. In this narrow interpretation we create a one-dimensional human being to play the role of entrepreneur. We insulate him from other dimensions of life, such as, religious, emotional, political dimensions. He is dedicated to one mission in his business life —- to maximize profit. He is supported by masses of one-dimensional human beings who back him up with their investment money to achieve the same mission. The game of free market works out beautifully with one-dimensional investors and entrepreneurs. We have remained so mesmerised by the success of the free market that we never dared to express any doubt about it. We worked extra hard to transform ourselves, as closely as possible, into the one-dimensional human beings as conceptualised in theory to allow smooth functioning of free market mechanism.
Economic theory postulates that you are contributing to the society and the world in the best possible manner if you just concentrate on squeezing out the maximum for yourself. When you get your maximum, everybody else will get their maximum.
As we devotedly follow this policy sometimes doubts appear in our mind whether we are doing the right thing. Things don’t look too good around us. We quickly brush off our doubts by saying all these bad things happen because of “market failures”; well-functioning market cannot produce unpleasant results.
I think things are going wrong not because of “market failure”. It is much deeper than that. Let us be brave and admit that it is because of “conceptualisation failure”. More specifically, it is the failure to capture the essence of a human being in our theory. Everyday human beings are not one-dimensional entities, they are excitingly multi-dimensional and indeed very colourful. Their emotions, beliefs, priorities, behaviour patterns can be more aptly described by drawing analogy with the basic colours and millions of colours and shades they produce.