Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Microcredit an opportunity for the poor

COTE D'IVOIRE: Rural Women in Need of a Helping Hand
By Fulgence Zamblé
ABIDJAN - From morning, Thérèse Allangba starts checking on members of the Cooperative of Women Farmers of Marahoué (Coopérative des femmes exploitantes agricoles de la Marahoué, COOFEEAMA), based in Bouaflé, capital of the Ivorian region of Marahoué. These women work in teams of five to supply leading markets with food.

MIGRATION-PORTUGAL: Starting a New Life With Microcredit
By Mario de Queiroz
LISBON - Starting one's own business on borrowed money is no easy task in Portugal for an unemployed or retired person, or one lacking advanced professional qualifications, even if the loan is small and payable in instalments.

DEVELOPMENT-BENIN: A Blow Against Poverty
By Michée Boko
COTONOU - Benin is hoping that a five-year, multi-million-dollar grant from the United States under the auspices of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) will finance development projects to reduce poverty, notably through resolving land ownership and credit problems.

DEVELOPMENT: Microcredit Not Just For "Poor" Countries
By Enrique Gili
SAN DIEGO, California - In a conservative industry focused on the bottom line, Patti Mason doesn't sound like your ordinary bank president. The former airline accountant turned banker is animated while discussing the merits of commerce as a form of economic empowerment.

DEVELOPMENT: Microcredit Summit Hopes to Kickstart MDGs
By Haider Rizvi
UNITED NATIONS - Hundreds of financial experts and activists are due to gather in the Canadian city of Halifax next weekend to explore new ways of helping the world's rural poor with small business loans.

ASIA: Workers' Remittances as Development Funds?
By Marwaan Macan-Markar
BANGKOK - Migrant rights activists are eyeing a regional conference starting here Monday to secure more protection for the frequently victimised overseas labour force. It comes as governments here, as elsewhere, are warming up to convert the millions being sent home by migrant workers for local development programmes.

CHINA: For Microcredit to Work Gov't Must Butt Out - Yunus
By Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING - Celebrating the success of microfinance as an antidote to poverty has raised some uncomfortable questions here over China's reluctance to allow civil society a bigger role in addressing tough social issues.

DEVELOPMENT-AFRICA: Few "Positions Vacant" for the Young
By Joyce Mulama
NAIROBI - A billion young people aged 15 to 24 unemployed, 85 percent of them in developing countries -- with several hundred million more expected to enter the job market by the end of the decade: grim statistics indeed. However, a recent conference offered some ideas as to how they could be addressed.

DEVELOPMENT: Remittances Do More Than Investments
By Sanjay Suri
LONDON - The British are not investing a great deal in the developing world, but remittances from Britain are emerging as a growing counter to poverty, a new survey shows.

COLOMBIA: Displaced Women Build New Lives, Brick by Brick
By Gloria Helena Rey
CARTAGENA, Colombia - "The City of Women", in the northern Colombian municipality of Turbaco, 11 kilometres from the fortified walls of this tourist resort city, bears no resemblance to Federico Fellini's 1980 film by the same name, or to the similarly dubbed Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Puerto Madero, where almost all the streets and public spaces are named for famous women.

VENEZUELA: Gov't Distributes Petrodollars Through Booming Cooperative Movement
By Humberto Márquez
CARACAS - Cooperatives in Venezuela, which are mushrooming at a rate of over 100 a day, have become a mechanism through which the government is distributing windfall oil profits to the people.

The birth of micro credit

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) - Muhammad Yunus is the founder of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank. His idea was to lend to people that other banks ignored.

While others talk of lofty ways to crush poverty, Yunus is credited with down-to-earth solutions to make people self-sufficient.

His bank and other funds based on his model, give tiny loans to those at the very bottom of the economic ladder.

Grameen literally means rural in Bengali and it was in a small village in 1976 that Yunus first realised that a small loan could make a big difference.

"One thing that led me to what I do now was a woman making bamboo stool. She told me she made two pennies a day. I couldn't believe why she made two pennies a day. She made beautiful bamboo stools," Yunus told CNN.

The woman told him that the rest of her profit went to the local moneylender who bought the bamboo stool from her at a fixed price.

Yunus went around the village and found 42 people in need of just $27. At that moment, micro credit was born in one of the world's poorest countries.

Growing success
Grameen now has more than 1,000 branches that reach into 40,000 Bangladeshi villages. In 25 years it has lent more than $3 billion to two million borrowers.

In the village of Taltoli, an hour north of the capital, Dhaka, women go to the local branch to make their weekly payments. Some of them take their pension books too as they now earn enough to put a little bit aside every week for old age.

About 80 percent of the 1,000 people living in the village have a loan from Grameen Bank. In the 13 years that Grameen has lent money to them, not one villager has missed a monthly payment.

Yunus says there are two reasons: people invest wisely and apply peer pressure to make sure the village keeps a spotless record.

The region is known for making puff rice, but with Grameen loans some of the villagers now own chickens, trucks and even mobile phones.

One of Taltoli's successes is 39-year-old Diapli Rani. She had very little 12 years ago when she applied for her first loan of about $80. Now she has a poultry farm and her children are in school.

Rani also sits on the Grameen board and has something in common with 95 per cent of its borrowers -- they are all women.

Yunus originally aimed to lend 50-50 to men and women alike, but he says men did not spend the money to help their families. It is the children he is most proud of -- the first generation to grow up with the benefits of micro credit.

"Today I can safely say 100% of the children of Grameen Bank are in school," said Yunus.

Such success has attracted worldwide attention. As First Lady, Hillary Clinton visited a Grameen village with Yunus. While he was governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton started one of the first micro credit groups outside Bangladesh.

The former president told Rolling Stone magazine that Yunus should receive a Nobel prize.

Yunus has also caught the eye of Mexico's President Vicente Fox who supports his controversial position that a micro credit loan, which can come with higher than average interest, is better than a handout.

"It dignifies because it promotes people's responsibility and people's will to work and to improve their own condition," said the president.

Providing inspiration
Laverne Jackson, 56, from Dallas in the U.S. also agrees.

She got a $500 loan from the local Grameen-inspired local "Plan Fund" to move her fledgling flower business into a small Dallas shop.

"I thought it was fantastic because you can't get another loan or any loan anywhere else without people wanting to know your credit history, how long...just everything about you," she told CNN.

The Dallas fund put Jackson and three other entrepreneurs into a group to ensure that each one paid off their loan and the interest.

The Grameen Bank and its offshoots say peer pressure makes it more likely people will repay loans. Laverne Jackson has not missed a payment.

Critics of Grameen say a loan with 20 per cent interest is too much of a hardship. The Bangladeshi government agrees.

Shah Kibria, Bangladeshi Finance Minister said: "Generally I think Dr. Muhummad Yunus has done a fine job. He is a very dynamic person and his methods have been used by others fruitfully, but the interest rate is too high, that is a major criticism."

However, Yunus defends the bank by saying "Today, the market rate is 15%. We charge 20% and deliver the service to the doorstep. None of our borrowers have to come to our office. Our staff go and provide the service at the door step."

Author David Bornstein spent months studying the Grameen Bank for his book "The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank".

He says that 20 percent in micro credit terms is actually quite low.

"There are micro credit organisations in Bolivia and in other parts of the world that charge 50 percent interest rates. I interviewed a lot of villagers for my book and none of them complained about the interest rate. That wasn't really a consideration," he told CNN.

When Yunus began, banks said the default rate would be too high, but 90 to 100 per cent of Grameen borrowers repay their loans. The success rate is the same as for a typical western commercial bank.

"So the fact that the bank manager was telling me that poor people are not credit worthy now has clearly demonstrated that they are very much credit worthy. The real question to be asked is whether the banks are people worthy," said Yunus.

Grameen earned $47 million in 1998. $2 million was profit. In most years the bank adds just over one per cent to Bangladeshi gross domestic product.

Yunus knows Grameen's income may be peanuts, but to other commercial banks, but he says it proves Grameen does not equal charity.

"Today the Grameen Bank is known as bank of the poor. This is how Grameen Bank is described and our success will be when we are described and accepted as the bank of the former poor."

Bangladesh banker Yunus endorses award-winning micro-credit system for India

New Delhi, Jan 30 : Bangladesh's Nobel Peace Prize winning economist Mohammad Yunus on Tuesday advocated the idea of micro crediting for India to benefit the poor in the long run.

Speaking at a business seminar in New Delhi, Yunus said his Grameen Bank would open branches in financial capital Mumbai and strife-torn northeastern Assam.

"Micro credit all over the world, not just Bangladesh demonstrated that it is really workable, doable, sustainable and the repayment is excellent. There are many programmes within India and 100 percent repayment, not 99 but 100 percent repayment, and very good programmes. So we have to sift through which one is arm-twisting programme, which comes in very nicely supportive, that's kind of draw the line between social business of micro-credit and profit maximization of micro credit," Yunus told a business seminar in New Delhi.

Yunus and his creation Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for leveraging small loans into major social change for impoverished families.

The Grameen Bank's pioneering use of micro-credit has been duplicated across the globe in more than 100 nations from the United States of America to Uganda.

The disaster-prone country is one of the worlds most densely populated, with many of its 140 million people struggling to eke out a living.

Loans as low as nine dollars have helped beggars start small businesses and poor women buy cell phones and basket-weaving materials.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have provided the Grameen Bank a .5 million dollars grant to expand its work worldwide.

Yunus launched Grameen Bank after he returned to Bangladesh from the United States to take a teaching job in the economics department at Chittagong University.

Alarmed at the poverty created by ongoing famine, he and his students started an experimental project giving women 27-dollar loans to buy straw to make stools.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Meet the New Heroes . Mohammad Yunus . Slideshow ...

Muhammad Yunus has helped millions of people lift themselves out of poverty in rural Bangladesh. His mission began when he realized that while he was teaching advanced economic theories, people were starving in the streets due to a terrible famine.


List of Awards Received by Professor Muhammad Yunus

Awards :
1. BANGLADESH : President's Award : 1978

Originator of the concept of Three-share Farming (Tebhaga Khamar) as a joint farming operation. Organised Nabajug Tebhaga Khamar in Jobra, Chittagong in 1975, around a deep tubewell which was lying unused because of management problems. Government of Bangladesh adopted the concept and introduced it in the country under the name of "Packaged Input Programme" (PIP) in 1977. Nabajug Tebhaga Khamar was awarded President's Award in 1978 for introducing an innovative organisation in agriculture.

2. PHILIPPINES : Ramon Magsaysay Award : 1984

Awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award in the Field of "Community Leadership" in 1984 for "Enabling the neediest rural men and women to make themselves productive with sound group-managed credit."

3. BANGLADESH : Central Bank Award : 1985

Awarded the Bangladesh Bank Award - 1985 in recognition of the contribution in devising a new banking mechanism to extend credit to the rural landless population, thereby creating self-employment and socio-economic development for them.

4. BANGLADESH : Independence Day award : 1987

Awarded the Independence Day Award, 1987, by the President for the outstanding contribution in rural development. This is the highest civilian national award of Bangladesh.

5. SWITZERLAND : Aga Khan Award For Architecture : 1989

Awarded Aga Khan Award For Architecture, 1989 by Geneva-based Aga Khan Foundation for designing and operating Grameen Bank Housing Programme for the poor, which helped poor members of Grameen Bank to construct 60,000 housing units by 1989, each costing on an average $ 300.

6. U.S.A. : Humanitarian Award : 1993

Awarded 1993 Humanitarian Award by the CARE, U.S.A. in recognition of role in providing a uniquely pragmatic and effective method of empowering poor women and men to embark on income generating activities.

7. SRI LANKA : Mohamed Sahabdeen Award for Science (Socio-Economic) : 1993

Awarded Mohamed Sahabdeen Award for Science (Socio Economic) in 1993.

8. BANGLADESH : Rear Admiral M. A. Khan Memorial Gold-Medal Award : 1993

Awarded Rear Admiral Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Gold-Medal Award in 1993.

9. U.S.A. : World Food Prize : 1994

Awarded 1994 World Food Prize by World Food Prize Foundation, U.S.A. in recognition of the lifetime achievements of an economist who created a bank loan system that has given millions of people access to adequate food and nutrition for the first time in their lives.

10. U.S.A. : Pfeffer Peace Prize : 1994

Awarded 1994 Pfeffer Peace Prize by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, U.S.A. for his vision of non‑collateral lending through the Grameen Bank and the courage of persevere in the concept that credit is a human right.

11. BANGLADESH : Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim Memorial Gold‑Medal Award : 1994

Awarded Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim Memorial Gold-Medal Award in 1994.

12. SWITZERLAND : Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize : 1995

Awarded Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize in 1995.

13. BANGLADESH : RCMD Award : 1995

Awarded Rotary Club of Metropolitan Dhaka Foundation Award in 1995.


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

World Bank says committed to microcredit despite Yunus criticism

WASHINGTON November 17, 2006--The World Bank is committed to microcredit, an official said Friday after Nobel Peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus attacked the lender for all but ignoring tiny loans for impoverished people.

Bank director Elizabeth Littlefield rejected Yunus's criticism, at a microcredit summit in Canada this week, that "not even one percent" of the World Bank's total lending goes to microcredit funding.

"That actually is quite a narrow definition of the World Bank's spending in microcredit, it relates only to credit lines on lending to microcredit institutions," she said.

The actual number "could be up to six percent of its total budget, about 1.3 billion dollars, if you use a much broader definition that includes credit lines, policy advice, payment systems, work on regulation and supervision as well."

"I would argue that the actual percentage of money spent in the field of microfinance is not the best measure for the commitment of an organization to building that field," Littlefield added.

International Year of Microcredit

Microcredit has been changing people's lives and revitalizing communities since the beginning of trade. Currently microentrepreneurs use loans as small as $100 to grow thriving business and, in turn, provide their families, leading to strong and flourishing local economies. The year of Microcredit 2005 calls for building inclusive financial sectors and strengthening the powerful, but often untapped, entrepreneurial spirit existing in communities around the world

What the Nobel Means for Microcredit

What the Nobel Means for Microcredit
Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus promotes peace not by brokering treaties, but by uprooting poverty through entrepreneurialism
On Friday, Oct. 13, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and its founder, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to establish the microcredit movement, which involves the granting of small loans to poor people with no collateral, across the developing world (see, 12/26/2005, "Nobel Winner Yunus: Microcredit Missionary"). The Norwegian Nobel Committee's statement said it awarded the prize of $1.4 million to Yunus and the bank "for their efforts to create economic and social benefit from below." The statement continued, "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty."

Nobel Winner Yunus: Microcredit Missionary

Economics professor Muhammad Yunus wasn't afraid to turn the rules of banking upside down.
Editor's Note: Bangladesh's Muhammad Yunus and the bank he founded, Grameen Bank, which created a new category of banking by granting millions of small loans to poor people with no collateral—helping to establish the microcredit movement across the developing world—won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. On its Web site, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it awarded the prize to Yunus, 65, and the bank "for their efforts to create economic and social benefit from below."