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Creating a Poverty Free World

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Muhammad Yunus created Grameen Bank, a bank tailored for poor people, in response to crushing poverty in his newly created country of Bangladesh. Poverty is not caused by the poor people. Poverty is caused by the system we built. Poverty is caused by the policies that we pursue. Grameen Bank has made a significant contribution to reducing poverty in Bangladesh. Since Grameen's creation in the 1970s, life expectancy has risen more than 20 years. The fertility rate has been cut in half. It is estimated that each year 200,000 Grameen members and their families escape poverty. The question is: where do we end up 10 years from now? 20 years from now? 50 years from now? We did something wrong, and poverty is created. So let's do something right so that poverty disappears. Dr. Yunus traces the growth of micro-finance into a worldwide movement. He shares his vision for using it to meet the Millennium Development Goals and to create a poverty-free world. He describes what it will take from all of us to enable micro-finance to reach its global potential. THE BONSAI TREE To me, poor people are like bonsai, like bonsai tree, little tree. You pick the seed of the tallest tree in the forest and then take the best seed out of that and plant it in a flowerpot. You got a tiny little tree and call it a bonsai. Nothing wrong with the seed. We've got the best seed possible. Nothing wrong with the tree because we picked the tallest tree in the forest. But actually it grows this far. Why? Because we put them into a flowerpot, the base. Society is the base, and society is so stingy, it doesn't give them, the poor people, the space to grow. So I said, change the base. If you change the base, anybody will be as tall as anybody else. My belief is poverty is not caused by the poor people. Poverty is caused by the system we built. Poverty is caused by the policies that we pursue. So if these are my conclusions, I have to prove that this is true. So I built Grameen Bank as an institution--a bank, but a different kind of bank. You say there are banks. Why did you create another one? I said this kind of bank doesn't exist. That bank created poverty. These banks get them out of poverty. We assume that some people will always remain poor. I'm always asked in Bangladesh: You talk about having a poverty-free world. Are you crazy? Even the richest country in the world--the United States--they have poor people there. I said, look. No matter how rich you get in the present system, you'll have poor people. So I'm trying to change that system, and that system there will be no poor people because people are as capable as anybody else. WHY CREDIT? In a world which goes around with money, you can not get a dollar without a dollar in your hand. To catch a dollar, you need a dollar. In the poor people, nobody gives the first dollar to catch the next dollar. This starting point is missing. If you are born in a rich family, you already have lots of dollars to catch many more in your lifetime. And not only that, if you have a lot of dollars already, any bank will give you a lot more dollars to make it more and you get more. But if you are on the ground level, you don't catch anything. So you become at service of everybody else. You offer your service, you earn your wage. Earn to feed youself and that's it. You are not in the money-making world at all. In most of the third world countries, even that job, that's not available either. So they're forced out in the open to go fend for themselves. Sell things, buy things, make money--informal sector, as they call it. But they don't have the money. So they go to the moneylenders. They borrow in the morning, pay back in the evening, pay 20% a day. That's the standard procedure in the world, and nobody notices that. Nobody wants to notice that. Everywhere, even in the USA, the moneylenders are there. Because no banking business, the formal business went in. Banks defended themselves by saying that poor people are not credit worthy. That's why we are not going there. So today we have shown that they are credit worthy. So what is the excuse for not going and lending money? I called credit as a human right, and I've been insisting that this should be formally adopted as a human right. If you list all the human rights that have already been recognized-- right to food, right to shelter, right to health, right to education-- how do you get those rights established? Is it government coming in a silver platter giving it to you? Here is your food. Here is your shelter. Here is your education. I don't think any government exists that can do that for every citizen. Government's responsibility is to enable the person so that they can establish their own rights. And that becomes possible. And then creating that environment becomes simpler if we make the credit available. And if you ask me to, kind of, put them in order of priority, all those rights, I'll put right to credit as the number one right. Because that's where it all starts. If you can bring income, credit means creating self-employment right away. And if you can create instantaneous self-employment, if you start earning income, Then achieving other things becomes easier--right to food, right to shelter, right to health. Makes sense. It's very important that as you earn, you put savings away. Savings is for something for future. It's a long-term asset-building process. Do you have the capacity to cope with emergencies? Emergencies could be flood, general emergency. It could be a personal emergency, somebody's sickness. And then, you are building it up for future, like a pension fund. At old age, who is going to take care of you? You don't worry because you are building up your future. Traditionally you think your son will take care of you, your daughter will take care of you, your relatives will take care of you. When the day comes, maybe they all abandon you because they are so poor themselves, they can not help you. So that is available to other people--privileged people--but it is not available to the poor people. WHY WOMEN? In many countries, women can not go and work. Even men can go and become agricultural laborer. Women, by tradition, by culture, are not capable of doing that. So they stay home, become dependent on men. When we began, we wanted to make sure half the borrowers of Grameen Bank are women. Not even 1% of the borrowers of the conventional banks in Bangladesh happen to be women. So there must be something wrong in the system, which kind of ignores half the population. And then we saw, money going to the family through women brought so much more benefit to the family compared to the benefits coming to the family where the money went through men. Women were very cautious with their money. They wanted to get the best mileage out of that money. If woman is making money, the children became the immediate beneficiaries. They went to school. They are better fed. They are better clothed. And the women look for long-term issues, trying to get out of poverty much faster than a man does. So looking at many of these issues, we changed our policy of 50/50. We concentrated on women. We focused on women. And today, with 4 million borrowers in Grameen Bank, 96% are women. GRAMEEN'S IMPACT Grameen Bank has been studied a lot. I mean lots of research institutions, universities, donor agencies. World Bank study tells that 5% of Grameen borrowers get out of poverty every year. And also if you look at other studies, child mortality has declined by 37% in Grameen families. Nearly 100% of the Grameen children are in school. We measure our poverty progress--how you move out of poverty-- by bringing 10 points in a checklist. If you have satisfied all those 10 points, you are out of poverty. One is housing, for example, it's whether you have a solid roof over your head. And you have enough space inside of your home, so that you can live in the family without worrying about winter and rain, particularly rain in Bangladesh. It's a monsoon country. So this is one. And whether all your children are in school, and staying in school in a steady way. So that's another one. Whether you have enough savings deposits in the bank, so that if you have a bank account, at least you know if you need money for an emergency or a special reason you can fall back on that money. And minimum balance would be 5,000 taka. So that's another point. Whether you have sanitary latrine. Whether you have access to drinking water, pure drinking water. And if out of 10, nine have been done, one is missing--we still do not consider you have crossed the poverty line. And in that estimation, 56% of the Grameen borrowers have moved out of poverty, which is quite a task. BEYOND CREDIT: GRAMEEN'S OTHER VENTURES As we are running Grameen Bank, our issue always is poverty, always the children in those families and their food and so on. And agriculture was in the system right from the beginning, And we saw the opportunity of aligning all the nonfunctioning deep tube wells lying all over the country. So we thought why don't we just take it from the government? So we started an irrigation project within Grameen Bank. And gradually we put it in a formal shape and called it Grameen Agricultural Foundation. It became an independent company. And similarly for fisheries. Governments wanted to give us lots of ponds they couldn't run because their officials are very incapable of doing that kind of thing. So we took it over. And we created the Fisheries Foundation out of that and still running as a Fisheries Foundation. And other companies like Grameen Energy, which is a solar energy company selling solar panels all over the country. So, in general, we have more than two dozen such companies that we have created along the way. Now we are getting ready for health care. Health care is so important, so vital. And the service, health care service, so poor in the country. So we thought we must get in, to try to build something which can reach out to the poorest. Even today, the children born in Bangladesh are born at home. As a result, Bangladesh is one of the top in child mortality and one of the top in maternal mortality. And the Millennium Development Goal is to cut it down by 2015. Always, whatever company we create with the name Grameen, means it is for the poor. Grameen Phone is a big company and sells mobile phone service in the country. How is it that you benefit from that for the poor people? Either they benefit directly from the company or they will be owning that company. Like Grameen Bank is owned by the poor people. It's owned by the borrowers. Similarly, Grameen Phone when it goes to the share market, that those shares will go to the poor people. We'll make sure that the company is owned in large part by the poor people. So this is the way we see the scenario. Everything we have done, we see some reason that it will go into the benefiting the poor people. GRAMEEN TRUST Grameen Bank became a piece of curiosity for people because we are saying things which nobody believed that could be done. Lending money to poor people and getting it back. And near 100% return of the money. Particulary in third world countries, particularly in Bangladesh where the tradition of agricultural banks giving loans, corporate institutions giving loans never coming back. That's the tradition. So they wanted to study, they wanted to come and find out how to do it. So more and more of these people who wanted to do themselves. They became constant visitors, trying to find out how to get things done. So we thought instead of doing it piecemeal, why don't we set up an organization who will specialize in this. Helping other people to replicate Grameen Bank. So we set up an organization called Grameen Trust. So Grameen Trust's job is to provide all the technical assistance, provide training, provide funding if possible. And Peter Goldmark, just newly elected president of Rockefeller Foundation, provided the first chunk of money to come to Grameen Trust to start the funding of the potential replicators. Many of the very important microcredit programs around the world today actually started with Grameen Trust support with that kind of money. Giving seed money and then starting moving from that stage to the next stage and so on. Today, more than 100 countries around the world have Grameen programs of one kind or another running there. So the idea has spread globally. So this became a very standard procedure. Each year the people will apply, will send letters without knowing that such a thing exists. We say why don't you come and join this Grameen dialogue. And the newsletter that we also call the Grameen Dialogue became the instrument for keeping in touch with each other and discussing the issues at hand, policy issues, technical issues So both Grameen Dialogue as a newsletter and Grameen Dialogue as a workshop method or exposure method has been very very important in strengthening the movement of micro-credit. Going Global: Beijing and the Microcredit Summit I was in Beijing conference because of our experience by 1995 and people responded very well during the Beijing conference We told our story how micro-credit worked so much good in a more efficient way bringing women into the income stream. And then leading to many other issues besides earning money and political issues and family status of the children, girl children and so on. And improving the health of the children because mother is earning money, that helps the children better and education of the children. And I must say that people paid a lot of attention to these issues. It brought the whole world to discuss and understand and review the policies, global policies, national policies towards women and gender issues. The decisions taken in Beijing conference still reverberate all over the world. We organized a Micro-Credit Summit in 1997 two years after Beijing because we felt that microcredit is so good, but not too many people are aware of it. And not too many people are getting involved and making it available to everybody. We have demonstrated beyond anybody's doubt that it works in helping people to get out of poverty, number one. And it's sustainable and it can work in all kinds of cultural and economic situations. But still people are not giving it as much attention we hoped they would. So we thought we'll bring the world together. It's the whole issue of changing the mindset of the financial institutions. Changing the mindsets of the donors, changing the minds of the government policy-makers. So there we present our case and tried to get their support and together we arrived at a goal--to reach 100 million poorest families with microcredit, preferably through the women in those families, by 2005. And we followed it up. Year by year, month by month what we are doing, how far we are doing, and we did a good progress. We will be very close to 100 million, if not exactly 100 million. SUPPORTING THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS So today, we are just around 100 million. Despite all the difficulties, all the skepticism, all the wrong policies. Imagine if we had the right policies, imagine if we had all the support systems installed how far we could have gone. And now we are discussing the Millennium Development Goals of 2015 and reducing the number of poor people to half by 2015. No matter how you look at it, sooner or later you have to come to the financing of this business. So, micro-credit will again be an important issue to be discussed to make sure poor people have access to financial services. If we do not apply micro-credit to reach the Millennium Development Goal, you may reach the Millennium Development Goal but not by 2015. It will be a very slow process because without money people will always find difficulty to pull themselves out of poverty. What else can you give to help poor people get out of poverty? Health, education, and so on, and growth of the economy. Growth of the economy doesn't immediately translate into getting poor people out. If we can bring the micro-credit in the hands of the poor people then they can take advantage of the growth. Growth, if you imagine growth as a flood, filling up all the canals and everything. But if the poor people don't have the boat, they will be drowned. The growth may drown them rather than make them float. So you need a boat for the poor people so that they can take advantage in the water in the canal and move in the economic destination of wherever they want to go. So that's what the role of the micro-credit is. A NEW KIND OF CAPITALISM At the conceptual level, what did we do wrong in our framework? We must have done something wrong in the framework that led to all these conditions. One thing I have been emphasizing again and again, for example in the issue of capitalism, there are things that seeds that we have put in which created the conditions of poverty right now. And this is no fault of capitalism itself. I think the whole thing began by the narrow interpretation of capitalism. For example, when we talk about businesses, we always imply, we always interpret businesses are the institutions with design to make money and their only objective is to make money. So people took it very seriously. So they are in the businesses if they want to maximize their profit in a whole-hearted way, a very concentrated way. We build supporting institutions to make it easy for them to get to their maximization of profits. In the way, we discarded all our social objectives of living in this planet. There, I think, we made the big mistake. Businesses could be two kinds, at least. Businesses to make money--maximization of profit-- and other kinds of business--business to do good to people. And that would be as dynamic a business as anything else you can see in the market. And business to do good to people are the one who are not running to make money but they are run as a business, cover their cost, it's a kind of no-loss business. Two kinds of entrepreneurs can run pharmaceutical companies. One kind of entrepreneur would be running their business as best they can, as efficiently as they can, as productively as they can, to make money. And there could be another kind of entrepreneur, which I may call social business entrepreneur but doesn't want to make money by selling medicine. Who wants to bring medicine to the people so that they can cure themselves of diseases or prevent diseases before it happens. At the same time covering the cost. So that it's not a charity organization. It's a business organization. If we can bring in social business entrepreneur in every single businesses the kind of poverty that we are talking about, the kind of problems that we see in the market, would gradually disappear because the social business entrepreneurs would try to address it. Wherever the problem arises, they will get in. GOVERNMENTS: PROVIDING A LEGAL FRAMEWORK Governments have to play the most important role. Other parties, like international finance organizations or donors, can initiate, can do very important job in opening up the path. But the real path-making has to be done by the government. Government, first of all, should not get involved in delivering micro-credit by themselves. That, I think, would be absolutely wrong policy. It should be open for private interventions and private investors or social business entrepreneurs. Government's intervention would be creating favorable environment, supportive environment. Under the existing laws everywhere in the world, NGOS or private organizations are not allowed to give loans. If you give loans, you have to get a license. And all countries prohibit taking deposits from somebody unless you are a bank. As an NGO, you violate the law. In Bangladesh, the regulatory body made a compromise allowed the NGOs to take deposits from the borrowers, but stopped taking deposits from non borrowers. So at least halfway, some compromise was done. In many countries around the world, even that is not allowed. So you cannot take deposit from your own borrowers, you cannot take deposits from outsiders. This has to be changed, I mean if you are serious about ending poverty, you have to be serious about that. Those troubles could disappear, anyway, if governments come and make legislation to allow creation of microcredit banks. Exactly the way microcredit works, so that now, it is a banking entity, a formal entity, which can take deposits, and lend money, so you don't have to look around for lending money because the money is available right there. You can take deposits and lend it out to the local people. So this is, I think, the most important task of the government, unless that is done, microcredit will always limp, it cannot become a strong business to reach out to all the poor people everywhere. So this is the most important role the government can play, creating the environment for that. THE VALUE OF WHOLESALE FUNDS In order to facilitate expansion of microcredit, in the absence of a regulatory body, and in the absence of the legislation to create a microcredit bank, one solution would be to create a wholesale fund, an intermediary body, who can borrow money, take donor money, pass it on to the microcredit lenders, NGOs, MFIs, who can do the job on the ground. So that entity is very important, that intermediate entity, which can provide the money, because otherwise individual microcredit program can spend 80 - 90% of their time chasing donors or somebody who can give the money, unless you have the assurance of the money coming, you cannot plan your expansion, how many borrowers you want to reach out next month, next year, because you're not sure where the money will come from. And also that institutions wholesale fund can become a guarantee institution. If micro-credit program is borrowing money from existing commercial banks and other financial institutions they can provide the guarantee, so that even if the wholesale fund itself doesn't have enough money they can become the intermediary, between the financial institutions and micro-credit programs. Pakistan has done that, India has done that but not from the government side, from the private side they created a wholesale fund. Uganda, they have done that, in Mexico they have done a wholesale fund. So there are several countries that I see. But in many cases the wholesale fund, since governments sponsor it, still is very bureaucratic and rigid. In order for wholesale fund to be effective. I think keeping a distance from the political entities like the government is very important. And people who want to invest in micro-credit programs as a social business entrepreneur can use their money as a guarantee for the existing conventional banks to provide loans to the micro-credit programs So they can individually or collectively create some guarantee mechanism. Bangladesh is a very exceptional situation. Micro-credit has gone a long way almost 80-90% of the poor families have been reached out with micro-credit programs in Bangladesh. But if you look at other countries, like India or China or the Philippines, still a long way to go. so there these mechanisms and wholesale funds are extremely important. And the role of the government is very important in creating the environment, legal environment, to facilitate the creation of micro-credit banks and regulatory body. THE UNITED NATIONS United Nations organizations, they have done some organizational workshops, conferences, and that sort of thing. U.N. can bring success stories and share with other countries, tell people how, why they feel that micro-credit is important, like celebration of international year of micro-credit in 2005. But I don't think we should expect them to come and really get involved in providing the funding. They can do experimental funding... they can do some documentational funding and that sort of thing not actual carrying on the micro-credit program. That has to be done by somebody else. One important role I see the international community, United Nations, can do. Is to collect all this information, and put it on a monthly basis, weekly basis to the worl So you have a web site you can go into details and find out what is happening in our neighborhood. Providing that information is much more powerful than dishing out money. But nobody is providing us any information. I think this is a most important thing to be done, even in a rudimentary fashion. Even if the information is not absolutely precise. So that is a most important thing to do. Unless we do that, unless we can measure, unless we can count, we cannot achieve. So that's as simple as that. THE WORLD BANK The World Bank as a financial institution didn't go very far on supporting micro-credit. If you look at their statistics World Bank lends out 20 billion dollars a year or something Not even one percent of that money each year goes into micro-credit. So you can see their priorities and importance they assign to them. And whatever money they have given in a big way in what we may call the mainstreaming in micro credit. One big example is their support to Bangladesh in wholesale fund. Bangladeshi wholesale fund was working and doing very good job and World Bank wanted to support that institution. They provided a big chunk of money, 150 million dollars to begin with. So that was one good point where money coming from the World Bank used very appropriately and very successfully. But my question is, if you could have this experience in Bangladesh, how good it worked. Why World Bank stopped doing it elsewhere? They did it in Pakistan but did it in a very different way than it's happening in Bangladesh. They have not in any other country that I know of. One of the things initiated by the World Bank was the creation of CGAP, Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest. And we were behind it, supporting it. To kind of platform for all the donors because I was thinking that donors don't understand what micro-credit is. CGAP as it went on its work, it concentrated on more academic exercises, studies, norms, rules, procedures... Probably because they work with the donors so they wanted to create some norms for the donors... But actual work was not helped very much by CGAP itself. One tension they created recently by changing their name which was Consultative Group To Assist the Poorest. They thought it would be wise for them to change the name to Consultative Group to Assist The Poor rather than the poorest. So it changed from Poorest to the Poor. And their explanation is the poorest don't need credit because they cannot handle credit. So we should be looking at the poor the particularly upper part of the poor who can handle money. So I thought that was absolutely against the intention of the creation of CGAP. And since that time, I think they have lost the touch of the ground level reality of micro-credit completely. THE RAOD MAP: GLOBAL TASK, LOCAL FOCUS To achieve the 2015 goal first requirement, first thing that we must do understand that it's a global task. It's not the task of the government, it's not the task of United Nations. It's not task of one particular group of donors or others, everybody is involved. Institutions, individuals, organizations, businesses, everybody must feel that this is our task. And take, pick up their own piece. How do we contribute and do that? We have to define the task itself. Unless we can describe this in a day to day, week to week, month to month basis. We cannot proceed, because if I don't know how much I have proceeded, how much part I have left how much distance to cover, I am not energized. It's not a money story. Donors cannot come and buy Millennium Development goals. Donors can only support governments and people's initiative to reach that - so this is a human effort, it's a more than a money effort. When you come to the village level because that's where the real action is, not at the United Nations which is global. When you go at that level everything gets blurred, you don't know what's happening really. So the real person to person thing is at the village level. Or at the unit level in the city or a block level in the city, whatever level you have the primary level in all existence. And then see how many poor people there are you list them because poor people are not like abstract entity - they are real people. And then we create an imaginary road map. How from point this, to next year at this point next year following year, following year... And then finally we make it. So each year's journey has been described and then we divide it up in each month's journey each week's journey, each day's journey and then follow it up. What actually we are doing and kind of plot it out. So that we know we are making it or we're not making it. THE ROLE OF CITIZENS I have not seen that any citizens' group has combined themselves: “We are the citizens to achieve Millennium Development Goals”. None. So if citizens don't feel this is important, government will not feel that it's important. Then it is not just bureaucrats sending notes to each other: what have you done, here is our report, glorious report, we are making all efforts...You know it's a country with lots of difficulties you must understand our reality, ground reality, it doesn't really happen the way you think we should. But we are making all the efforts we have spent so much, money, we created this cell, we have done this, look at this beautiful package that we...that's it. It will be limited in that ping pong games or ping pong that you write reports, I send reports, make a presentation, that's it. So this is what the citizens' role is, citizens to form those kind of... activate those institutions and form their own lobby group, pressure groups and action groups to make it happen. THINKING AHEAD The world is changing, not today; it has been changing ever since it was here. But the speed of change in human society is getting faster and faster and faster. We come to the second half of the last century -- 20th century -- and we see suddenly this speed became still faster. And you come to the last decade of the last century we see that speed is phenomenal. Human society will be changing, faster than ever before in the history of mankind. The question is, with those changes, where do we end up? 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now... So this is a question everybody should be asking themselves, because 50 years is a long, long time in the fast-moving world. So this is the chance that we have. To think ahead. Because unless we can imagine, we cannot create. So I think it's a very concrete thing all we have to do, believe in it and work for it. And it will happen and it will happen faster than we can imagine. And that will be the day when we can all agree that we have to create museums, poverty museums. Because our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren who like to know about poverty because they're reading about in the history but they don't see it around. and when our children, our grand-children will be visiting those poverty museums, they will hate us. They will hate their predecessors because the earlier generations tolerated this inhuman conditions for fellow human beings. So that's a basic thing, we must imagine what it would be like in 2050, or 2030, or 2020 and then let us work together to make it happen. And if we imagine things, agree on them, it will happen because we are the ones who run this show. So if we decide this is the kind of world we want it would be poverty free world, there's no other escape. We did something wrong and poverty is created. So let's do something right so that poverty disappears.

Video Details

Duration: 41 minutes and 23 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Ashoka
Views: 2,770
Posted by: fsosa on Oct 13, 2006

Muhammad Yunus' unique approach to eradicating poverty is a triumph of
practical innovation. Here he demonstrates how Grameen Bank and the Grameen Family of Companies offer viable solutions to age-old challenges. He illumiates next steps for the global microfinance revolution. He envisions a new kind of capitalism - explaining how to use new structures and business principles to produce prosperity and to correct past errors that led to poverty today.

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