Sunday, December 2, 2007

Out of this world

Humongous opportunity is inherent to poverty of a nation

Often, an individual or an organisation alone can bring about changes in society, which even collective effort and representation fail to achieve. While there aren’t many examples, one man, and his organisation, has achieved enviable status in bringing about structural changes in a nation, which otherwise is known for endemic floods, perpetual destitution and poor social infrastructure. Prof. Mohammad Yunus, and his Grameen Bank, has been a living example of how constructive vision coupled with workable, replicable and rudimentary economics can transform the socio-economic status of the nation and in this case it is Bangladesh. In a world where the poor are considered to be global liabilities and have been reduced to statistics for academic research and political sloganeering, their feat has not only been extraordinarily benevolent but completely ‘out of this world’! What has been remarkable is the manner in which Prof. Yunus has gone about systematically demolishing every popular convention and definition in general business, banking and nation building, and that too not just by shallow rhetoric but by actionable economics. He has shown to the world that it is not just one or two but as many as 7.4 million poor, of whom 94% are women, who are not only bankable but also dependable. Grameen Bank boasts of maintaining a cumulative repayment rate of more than 97%, a figure which other professionally managed commercial banks strive to maintain, but never do! He has also shown that empowering the poor does not require billions of dollars but small doses of funds and along with it a direction towards productive engagement. Grameen Bank has proved this by disbursing just USD 6 billion to a whopping 7.4 million poor, till mid 2007. It is incredible that all this he achieved without much governmental support and against perpetual hostility from leftists and the fundamentalists.

In fact not just micro-credit, the kind of the other initiatives (like in the areas of fisheries, agriculture, software or telecom) that has been taken up by the Grameen Bank with the singular objective of helping the poor, can put any government to shame. In fact, such is the level of commitment that recently they have taken an initiative that would be termed as ‘insane’ by any conventional banker. They have started offering loans to the women who seek alms. Such has been the effect that of the 1, 00,000 women who have been seeking alms for their livelihood, almost 10,000 have stopped and the rest 90,000 have resorted to part-time alms seeking, for the rest of the time they sell small merchandise and make a dignified living!

It is not just for any government; even for the global business community Grameen Bank stands tall as an iconic living example of sensible tapping of the world of opportunities that is inherent to poor. It has exhibited that meaningful sensitising and engaging them towards productive means does not only help the institution but the economy at large. It does not need any further reiteration of the fact that the day every corporation starts working like the Grameen Bank and every political leader starts thinking like Prof. Yunus, this world would be a different place, definitely and drastically different from the way it is, currently!


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