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Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty Jane Jones State University Introduction Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle against World Poverty is a well-thought out book on the subject of microfinance. Its author, Muhammad Yunus, is quite and interesting person in his own right…
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The Government was handing out gruel but the excessive numbers made the task staggering. So many people were dying that the religious leaders organized teams of people to gather the dead, much like the European Black Plague of the Middle Ages. Yet he was part of the wealthier urban class, teaching, safe and secure, in a university literally across the street from the rural people dying in their houses. With this bleak aspect, by 1974 Doctor Yunus had quickly grown disillusioned with the thought of teaching Western style economics in such a culture. To quote him, “How could I go on telling my students make-believe stories in the name of economics?” Something had to be done but what? He quickly decided that Professor Yunus should become Student Yunus and that he should study the people of the neighboring village of the college. What he learned over the course of the next two years was the basis of his book and what economists would learn to call micro-lending. Discussion In a nutshell, by the mid seventies, the chasm between the haves and the have-nots was much greater in Bangladesh than in the West. Basically, one either lived quite comfortably or was starving to death. Yet the people were neither ignorant nor lazy. The civil war had devastated the country economically. George Harrison and others had attempted to raise Western money for Bangladesh relief but like any other aid monies that was simply a band-aid to try to heal the country’s wounds when there was a gashed artery. Added to the woes was their newly found independence, after years of rule by other countries. Maybe they didn’t know how to govern themselves, politically or economically. The infrastructure of Bangladesh’s economic system had to be rebuilt. With that in mind, the two years Doctor Yunus spent among the people of the village of Jobra convinced him that perhaps the Western brand of economics and finance was not the best model to apply to Bangladesh. It was probably a good thing he was one of their own people, albeit a highly educated and comparatively wealthy “city dwellers” that the poor villagers had come to distrust. After all, he was a Bangladeshi and Muslim, a man of peace and good intentions. Indeed, he had spent part of his time in the United States involved in peaceful protests of the war in Viet Nam. Still it took him the better part of those two years trying to learn the trust of those villagers. The Doctor also spent time testing various economics theories that he thought would work. Many did but he finally hit pay dirt when he discovered micro-lending. To put it simply, micro-lending essentially involves loaning ultra small amounts of money to very small business people, most of the time amounting between anywhere from a few dollars (his first loan was US $27!) to a few hundred. Western banking firms, used to business loans of thousands to millions, would literally laugh at such miniscule amounts. But who had the last laugh? In its first thirty years, the Grameen bank Yunus started had issued almost seven billion US dollars in loans to over two and a half million customers in over one hundred countries, on five continents. The core of Grameen Bank’s loans is the small business person, or the so-called cottage industry and the vast majority of its borrowers ... Read More
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