Wednesday, June 20, 2007

3rd letter from Prof. Yunus

Dear citizens,
Regards to you all. I have written to you twice earlier. I wrote the first letter on February 11 seeking your opinions whether I should join politics. I wrote the second letter on February 22 declaring the decision to join politics and form a political party following your encouragements. I also told you that the probable name for the party would be 'Nagorik Shakti'. This time, in my third letter, I write to you to inform you that I have decided to stand aside my efforts to form a political party.Encouraged by your supports and motivated by the hope of creating a new political stream, I took the decision to join politics. By taking this decision, I was ready to put all my life's works behind me to enter a new life and I enthusiastically started the work to form a political party. As the first step in forming a party, I started the process of building a strong organising team. The plan was to introduce the team to everyone after the ban on indoor politics is withdrawn and move forward with the formation of the party. But, despite my all-out efforts I could not create a team that can boost my confidence. In the light of the experience I have gained from this process, I think, I will not be successful even if I wait for a longer period. So, I have taken the decision to stand aside by accepting the reality that it is correct not to go any further down the path.
A great sense of hope has prevailed in the country following the declaration of the state of emergency and the formation of a new caretaker government. New doors have been opened in the political arena. A new opportunity has been created to bury the hostile, divisive and conflict-centric politics by creating a political stream under the new leadership to take the country's economy forward. Everyone has understood that these opportunities do not come always. Everyone in this country feels that the impossible can be made possible through the innovations if good political will, competent leadership and good governance can be ensured.
I decided to join politics in this perspective. We had a single dream: to create a corruption-free political stream that is unified, consensual, empathetic, peaceful, secular, and committed to radical economic growth; a dream to turn the country into a self-assured nation by freeing the people from conflict, distrust and disappointment. We all know where we have to go. When we know the destination, we can try our best to reach -- I took my initiatives with this belief.
You have responded to my call by sending many letters, faxes, emails, and sms to support my initiative. You have given advices by sending letters to newspapers. You have also given your suggestions in newspaper post-editorials and television discussions. A number of you have informed me after you have formed preparatory teams in your areas. A number of expatriates have informed me after forming their committees. Young people both here and from overseas have voluntarily come forward to give their time and talent. I am grateful to all of you. I am extremely sorry to stand aside politics after giving you the hope. I have taken this decision early so that your further disappointment does not increase from my delay.
I dedicated all my strength towards forming a party. As part of the first step, I concentrated on forming an organisational team. I wanted to create it in such a way so that it creates confidence in people and it can generate massive political force even though it is a new party.
After I announced that I would form a party, people known or unknown to me, politicians, and people who aren't politicians but are interested in politics contacted me. I urged them to join the party. I also contacted people who did not contact me but whom I thought would strengthen the party with their presence. When I was on foreign trips, I daily contacted several people. The people who were working on my behalf towards forming a party also continued in maintaining contacts with them.
Through this communication process, one thing became clearer that those who were encouraging me will not join politics themselves and will not give public support because of their own problems. And those who are in political parties will not leave their parties, at least, now. They might join later if the political situation changes. After all calculations, I realised that nothing much is being accumulated. So, whom will I form the strong team with?
I went ahead with creating the party by not breaking my pledge not to veer from the components required to build a political party that is transparent, corruption-free and successful. I went forward with the approach that I thought would be best to establish a new political path. From working on this, it became increasingly clear to me that the people who I needed with me to present a strong and bright alternative to the people, will not be with me. Some of them are involved with political parties, some of them who are not in politics but are enthusiastic about it. They all want a new political path to be established and they are enthusiastic about changing the country's political culture. But, I could not bring them with me. Those who initially showed encouragement, I saw that they are becoming less and less encouraging.
That is when I started to question myself -- should I keep going or should I stall the process and wait? Or should I completely stop the initiative to form a party? I opposed the formation of a weak party. Instead of trying to create a new political arena with a weak party, let us wait for someone else to make the effort and succeed.
I am trying. Those who were with me from wherever they were are also trying. We are again presenting the need for a new political stream through our efforts. Now, someone else has to come forward to fill this void. I hope they become immensely successful.
This country is at the doorstep of great potential. The next five years are a very important period for us. This is the time of change. It is the time to make big political and economic decisions and implement those decisions. It is the time to make Bangladesh the hub for regional commerce and communication by taking advantage of our geo-strategic location by linking with regional transport systems and establishing the deep seaport. Our country is filled with the rich coal and gas reserves in a world thirsty for energy. It is the time to use these vast mineral resources for the country's development. It is the time to make Bangladesh the best country in using information technology. It is the time to build the country's human resources and make it resources for the nation and the world by establishing a global standard of education and training. It is the time to ensure that the remittance from non-resident Bangladeshis are used productively and link their skills and money to the country's development. It is the time to strengthen local government.
The time has come to shift the nation's economic and political gears. The nation's spirit is ready to graduate to far higher levels. What is needed now is the creation of a new political party and leadership who can properly and skilfully do this.
We should not fail in our duty to change the political and economic situation.
I express my deep and sincere gratitude and thanks to everyone who gave me their love and compassion despite my faults and limitations.

Muhammad Yunus
May 3, 2007

2nd Letter from Prof. Yunus

Dear Citizen,I am writing to you again. First, let me express my salam to you. I could never imagine that I would get such massive response from the letter I wrote to you on February 11, 2007.ACCEPT MY SINCERE THANKS AND GRATITUDEYou have encouraged my entry into politics with such logic and emotions that I could not help being astonished. I again felt the infinite blessings of Allah on me. From your replies, I have come to realise that how deep into your hearts you have let me in and you have put me in a position of great trust.
You have come forward and advised me with the desire to create a new politics for a new Bangladesh. A handful of young volunteers have been struggling to keep up with the incessant flow of mails, emails, fax and sms that you have sent to me after reading my letter in the newspapers. Your letters are continuing to flood in. The replies ranged from the people in remote villages of Bangladesh to the enthusiastic expatriates. I have received many valuable advices through your letters. I thank you from the depth of my heart. I express my gratitude to you. I also thank those who have asked me not to join politics out of their love for me. To them, I only have to say that only Allah can give us respect. If one wants respect, that person should earn it himself or herself. I want to go ahead with what I think is my duty. Overall, the message that you have clearly articulated to me, is that people from all walks of life want to go forward with me with a wish to bring widespread changes. I have no way to disappoint them.
I AM JOINING POLITICS WITH YOUR ADVICEIn light of your enthusiasm, I have decided to take part in your efforts for creating a new politics. I will join politics and establish a new party. Please pray, so that I can fulfill your wishes and so that Allah's blessings are with me, as always. The foundation of my new party will gradually build up through the same consultative process I have used to come to this decision.
I have received many proposals regarding the name of the party and have decided on proposing the name 'Nagorik Shakti' (Citizens' Power) to constantly remind the people of the creation of a new politics through unleashing the hidden power among all citizens. In short, we can use "Shakti" for promoting the party. We want to establish our beloved country among the frontline countries with the slogan "March ahead, Bangladesh." We want the central motto to be the pledge being echoed inside each proud citizen today: "We Can."
I have expressed on several occasions my ideas and opinions on the objectives and programmes the party requires to build a new Bangladesh. In this regard, I am enthusiastically trying to discern the hopes and desires of the nation. The messages that I have received from you recently, contained some questions, some opinions and some preferences on this matter. You wanted to know what would be my party's goal and purpose? I will outline the goals and purpose of the party later. The party itself will decide on it once it is formed.
Let me say which aspects would characterise 'Nagorik Shakti' as a political party. I have been saying these for years. The politics of this party would be to move towards the future by coalescing the people under a unified goal; not to go around in the circles of the past by creating divisions. The activists in the towns and villages would be in charge of the party's policy making. Those who break the law will not be allowed to become its leaders. All the nominations from the party for all elections, including national parliamentary elections, would be given by the local committee; and they will decide on the candidate by comprehensively considering their honestly and competency. To maintain public relations, it will follow alternatives to grand rallies. Women and the youth would be the lifeblood of this party, they would come to the leadership in huge numbers. This party will not judge everything from the party perspective; rather it will consult all other parties, non-political citizens, experts, expatriates and others. They will move forward together. Overall, this party would be the beacon of national unity and implementation of the nation's dreams.
OUR POLITICSOur politics would be the politics to materialise the dream of the liberation war. This politics would be a politics of unity, a politics of peace, a politics to establish honesty, a politics of labour, a politics to change the fate of the people as quickly as possible by reviving a new work ethics, a politics to send poverty to the museum. This politics will be non-communal, secular, democratic, good governance, free from corruption and against politicisation. It will be the politics of equity for women in all spheres, building the future of young generation and not to bow down to foreign power and to stand in the world holding the head high. I am urging all the citizens to come forward actively in support of this politics to make it a success.
IMPERATIVES FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THIS POLITICSCome, let us start our work from this moment to establish these characteristics. Let our preparations begin by maintaining the existing provision of internal politics. Key areas of our activities at this moment will be our respective constituencies, villages and wards; take initiative to form, as many possible, 20-member 'Primary Preparatory Team'. If you are staying outside your area, try to visit your area and contact people to take the initiative. It is your task to do the work of the organisation in your area. It is also your task to select honest and competent candidates and make them win in national and local elections; others will not do it for you. And it is also your duty to contribute money and other resources for it according to your ability. Those who can afford, can set up preparatory offices and contact centres of 'Nagorik Shakti' with their own initiative and financing, if necessary at your shop or personal workplace or own house, and hang signboards and banners in this regard. It will be better if these are many in number in an area. Write name of the party and our declaration (March ahead, Bangladesh) in clear letters on them. Make arrangements as best as you can to receive phones, letters, faxes, emails from people, give information and receive people's opinion and let me know. Let the volunteers work here. Send us information and get recorded after forming a 'Primary Preparatory Team' or setting up preparatory offices and contact centres. Also encourage your friends to form preparatory teams. The success of 'Nagorik Shakti' will depend on your zeal and efforts. For the time being, begin your preparatory stage work on the basis of the draft outline as written below. The draft will be finalised after receiving opinion of all.
FORM PRIMARY PREPARATORY TEAMThose, who will be member of the party, set up one or more offices in each ward of the villages of Bangladesh. Form preparatory teams in each ward as many as possible. Each 'Primary Preparatory Team' will comprise of 20 members with one convenor. These will be formed on the basis of different groups. Innumerable such preparatory teams of same groups may be there in each ward or you alone can form several such teams. Make sure that the number of teams of women members is equal to those of the men. Special initiatives have to be taken to form teams of women. To form teams, the groups would be: 1. male students, 2. female students, 3. adolescent male workers, 4. adolescent female workers, 5. young male workers, 6. young female workers, 7. young male social workers, 8. young female social workers, 9. young male service-holders, 10. young female service-holders, 11. young male professionals, 12. young female professionals, 13. young housewives, 14. farmers, 15. workers, 16. professionals, 17. service-holders, 18. small entrepreneurs, 19. businessmen, 20. young male businessmen, 21. young female businessmen, 22. housewives, 23. elderly men, 24. elderly women. It is not mandatory that each of the groups will have to form team. If any group has small number of members they may form team after joining members of other groups.
Elect a group-convenor in a ward (mahalla in the cases of metro cities) from among the convenors of all the teams in the ward. The group-convenors will form a convenors team. One of the tasks of the convenors team is that it would form a 'Ward Preparatory Team' with honest, competent and enthusiastic people of the ward. It will be your collective task to bring in the right people in this regard. Electing at least one third from among women for the 'Ward Preparatory Team' and other teams at all levels is a must; but equal number of male and female members is desirable. Form Union or town or Metro-ward preparatory team with three elected members of each 'Ward Preparatory Team' or 'Mahalla Preparatory Team' in case of metro cities. With three elected members from each such team, form 'Constituency Preparatory Team'. The 'Constituency Preparatory Team' will play the key role in nominating the panel of honest and competent candidates for national and local elections and it, after getting approval at party selection at all levels of union/town/metro-ward, will later be sent to central committee. The district and national level teams can also be formed this way. By electing 'Constituency Team' at this moment quickly, we will have to begin the task of finding out honest and competent candidates for national and local elections. You yourselves will be able to turn these preparatory teams later into well-formed committees. After forming group-based 'Primary Preparatory Teams' as many as possible, you go forward to form preparatory teams at next levels. We will distribute detailed policy to all about the formation process of 'preparatory teams' at different levels to make things clear to all. I myself will begin the task of forming a general preparatory team with those among you who will be identified as more successful leaders among you and the experts.
The ward level team will have many duties. They will be responsible for local development and political organisation. Its key duty will be freeing the area from poverty. Key among its political duties will be to review continuously who will be eligible for contesting in the elections and for which post, and taking the responsibility of electoral task, to perform the task of nominating candidates.
THOSE WHO ARE WORKING OUTSIDE THEIR AREASThose, who are working in a distant workplace outside their village, take a week's leave and go to your village. Going there, form as many as possible Primary Preparatory Teams and come back. These processes will not start if you do not go there. Preparatory teams would form one after another as soon as you go there. Encourage union parishad chairmen and members to establish ward-level preparatory teams. Now there's no scope in criticising politics from your living rooms. Now is the time to overturn the political culture of the past. You are the sole creator of this change. If possible, take a long leave from work and go to your home. It is doubtful whether the chance to change politics would ever come again. Do not let it slip away with indolence. Your fate and the fate of future generations are in your hands.
SUPPORTERS GROUPSThose who cannot come within the organisational structure because of personal reasons, please establish Nagarik Shakti Supporters Group from wherever you are or join your local supporters group. Three to 20 people can join each supporters group, including members or non-members of the party. Let me know the creation of the supporters group and its future developments. Even friends who are located in different areas can establish a supporters group. You can create your supporters group through emails, telephones or even through a blog on the Internet. Contact others and encourage them to create supporters groups. This force is needed to enforce the required change.
Dear Expatriate brothers and sistersI am especially thankful to you. I have received a huge number of emails and telephone calls from you. You have expressed your trust in me. You have clearly stated your interest in bringing change to the country's political arena. Now is the time to start work. Create supporters groups in the countries of residence. Establish its offices at your workplace or your home. Build up communication centres. Effectively use the modes of communication, discussion and disseminating information available through the Internet. Take steps to create supporters groups in your own village or your town back in Bangladesh. If possible, visit the country for a week or two. Go to your locality and create supporters groups. Ensure financial assistance for them. Identify and then talk to honest and competent candidates and then encourage them to join Nagorik Shakti. Constantly maintain contact with us and describe your activities. Give us your advice at every step. If possible, take leave from work or your business to come back during elections. This is your chance to earn the honour of establishing a new politics in the country with your own hands.
Dear YouthYou are the greatest strength of this country. You will establish a respectful future for this country. You surely want widespread changes in the political arena, then you must come forward with innovation and enthusiasm. You will have to build up organisations across the country. You must create effective and proactive support by establishing Nagorik Shakti Supporters Groups in schools, colleges and universities. You must echo the clarion call of "March ahead, Bangladesh."
Call to the women of the countryHalf of the country's people are women. But, your role in the decision-making process is ignored. You have to come forward in publicising the new identity of Bangladesh. You can become a very powerful force in the materialising the dream of a new country. Gather your relatives and friends. Build up Nagorik Shakti Supporters Group. Everyone from Rural women to urban women, teachers, doctors, nurses, and students, all have to come forward. Now is the time to shed your dilemmas, fears, anxieties, and divisions to march forward in resolute steps. Come forward to ensure this beautiful nation becomes a country of peace.
You are the Citizens PowerI will be very happy if preparatory teams are set up in each locality. Those who have and will express such, I will understand that they have come forward to implement the dream of creating a new politics with their own labour, money and assets. You are the citizens' power. I want to work with you. I strongly believe that many others would follow in your footsteps. The challenge ahead of you is big, and time is short. But you cannot forget that citizens' power is a very powerful force. All of you have a strong belief in your heart "I can." We want to awaken the entire nation with the declaration "March ahead, Bangladesh." The merciful Allah will help us.
I am extremely sorry that I could not reply to your messages separately. I will certainly try to do so. But you must continue your communication with me. Your letters are shining the light on the path ahead. Please do not take this light away.
My address, fax number, phone numbers etc will remain unchanged. I am again providing them below. Others have expressed interest in volunteering on conveying your messages to me and vice versa. I will create more opportunities for them. Those who want to assist me in whichever way, please let me know in writing. I urgently need you. Otherwise, arrange the conveyance of people's messages to me by creating preparatory offices and communication centres in your own areas. I am waiting for your progress reports, advice and opinions.
Thank you and greetings

Muhammad Yunus
February 22, 2007

1st Letter from Prof. Yunus

My personal letter to you Dear citizen, Please take my Salam. I am writing this letter to you with the hope of receiving a personal reply from you. You might have noticed in what situation many people requested me to join politics and why I had to consider it with utmost importance. I, like you, witnessed where our political culture has brought the country and how it attempted to destroy the country's future possibilities. The way the present caretaker government is trying to create an acceptable atmosphere by carrying out necessary reforms has made me optimistic along with all citizens of the country.
In this situation, I feel it with my heart that I should, showing due respect to the people's expectation of me, participate in the mission of taking the nation to the height it deserves.
It is now clear to all that it is not possible to reach the goal maintaining the existing political culture; it is only possible by bringing a comprehensive change to the culture. Through my work and experience, I feel with all my heart that the people with their innate sense of endeavour and creativity can achieve the impossible if political goodwill, competent leadership and good governance can be established. If I have to form a political party in response to the people's desire, it will be dedicated to this very objective. I have received pure love and respect from people of all ages ranging from the poorest to the most powerful, I do not know when again a Bangladeshi individual will have this good fortune. By the grace of Allah, I am a very fortunate man. There is nothing left for me to desire. I know that joining politics is to become controversial. I am ready to take the risk if you think me joining politics will help in ushering of a new political climate.
It is high time to form the proper political structure conducive to the huge task of building a Bangladesh we all dream of, by freeing ourselves from all past frustrations. I need the active participation and assistance of you and all others like you if I have to go forward with this mission. I need your advice on how I should go forward. I also want to know how you want to participate and assist in this task. The efforts of you and me to realise everybody's desire for a new politics in order to build a new Bangladesh will get strength if these can be learnt from you in the form of a letter.
You can give your advice in your own style on any topic regarding the formation of a new political party. I can point out some topics as examples: a) how the party can stay involved with the people of all villages and neighbourhoods and work to realise their expectations; b) how the party can be helpful to the common people in their daily struggle and in solving their problems; c) how the organisations of the party can be built on the basis of spontaneous devotion of men and women of all ages and professions; d) what can be done to encourage the eager, enthusiastic, honest and competent people of all levels to align with the party and to become active in it; e) how the honest and competent among them, having public support, can be nominated for different local and national elections; f) how can we ensure transparency and honesty of all the people involved with the party, and of the party itself; g) how democracy can be established within the party; h) how can the flow of opinions directly from the grassroots level be ensured; and i) how the officials and employees serving in state institutions can be prevented from turning into activists of political parties -- your thoughts and advice on many such questions are vital.
At the same time, it is important to know what role you (and your friends) can play in the party, how you can actively contribute or support, is also very important to know. For example, you can play the role: a) of a member of a village or neighbourhood-level organisation; b) of a pioneer of the party's welfare initiatives; c) of a local organiser; d) of an organiser of a community organisation; e) of an activist taking party calls widely among the people; f) of an adviserresearchertheoretician for the party; g) you can contribute to the party by using your special skills or expert knowledge in its service; h) by taking a leadership role in popularising the party as an enthusiastic supporter; i) by demonstrating your organising power; and so on.
I want to know your opinion and get your advice whether you are a political leader, activist, leader or worker of an association or organisation, industrialist, businessman, professor, teacher, shopkeeper, farmer, labourer, artist-writer-thinker, professional, journalist, service holder, housewife, teenager, youth or an expatriate Bangladeshi.
Please write a short or detail personal reply to my letter. Your friends, all members of your family, neighbours, classmates and colleagues can also put in their thoughts in the same letter. You can reply through email and distribute copies of it among all your acquaintances. You can also send a short reply through SMS and encourage all your acquaintances to do the same. You can send copies of my letter to your relatives and friends abroad and encourage them to reply. It will not be possible to come out clean from old politics if a strong momentum for a new politics is not created. We will not be able to reach our goal with feeble support.
I hope my letter and your reply to it will only be the beginning of our sincere communication. The communication established will be able to go forward actively towards a common goal from now on.
You can use my following address to send your reply or may arrange to send it to me in any other way.
Contact Address:Dr Muhammad YunusHAL Mars6/D, 66 Outer Circular RoadMoghbazar, Dhaka 1217Fax: 9334656Email:
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You can call the following numbers for inquiries about the letter: 01713082277, 01717760870Waiting for your reply.With thanks and greetings,Muhammad YunusFebruary 11, 2007
(Translated from Bangla by The Daily Star)

Nobel Prize :: Ceremony Speech

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.Grameen Bank and I are deeply honoured to receive this most prestigious of awards. We are thrilled and overwhelmed by this honour. Since the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, I have received endless messages from around the world, but what moves me most are the calls I get almost daily, from the borrowers of Grameen Bank in remote Bangladeshi villages, who just want to say how proud they are to have received this recognition.
Nine elected representatives of the 7 million borrowers-cum-owners of Grameen Bank have accompanied me all the way to Oslo to receive the prize. I express thanks on their behalf to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for choosing Grameen Bank for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. By giving their institution the most prestigious prize in the world, you give them unparalleled honour. Thanks to your prize, nine proud women from the villages of Bangladesh are at the ceremony today as Nobel laureates, giving an altogether new meaning to the Nobel Peace Prize.
All borrowers of Grameen Bank are celebrating this day as the greatest day of their lives. They are gathering around the nearest television set in their villages all over Bangladesh , along with other villagers, to watch the proceedings of this ceremony.
This years' prize gives highest honour and dignity to the hundreds of millions of women all around the world who struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for a better life for their children. This is a historic moment for them. Poverty is a Threat to Peace
Ladies and Gentlemen:
By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.
World's income distribution gives a very telling story. Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.
The new millennium began with a great global dream. World leaders gathered at the United Nations in 2000 and adopted, among others, a historic goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015. Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size. But then came September 11 and the Iraq war, and suddenly the world became derailed from the pursuit of this dream, with the attention of world leaders shifting from the war on poverty to the war on terrorism. Till now over $ 530 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq by the USA alone.
I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action. Terrorism must be condemned in the strongest language. We must stand solidly against it, and find all the means to end it. We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns. Poverty is Denial of All Human Rights
Peace should be understood in a human way − in a broad social, political and economic way. Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights.
Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.
The creation of opportunities for the majority of people − the poor − is at the heart of the work that we have dedicated ourselves to during the past 30 years. Grameen Bank
I became involved in the poverty issue not as a policymaker or a researcher. I became involved because poverty was all around me, and I could not turn away from it. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease. That brought me face to face with poor people's struggle to find the tiniest amounts of money to support their efforts to eke out a living. I was shocked to discover a woman in the village, borrowing less than a dollar from the money-lender, on the condition that he would have the exclusive right to buy all she produces at the price he decides. This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor.
I decided to make a list of the victims of this money-lending "business" in the village next door to our campus.
When my list was done, it had the names of 42 victims who borrowed a total amount of US $27. I offered US $27 from my own pocket to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders. The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?
That is what I have been trying to do ever since. The first thing I did was to try to persuade the bank located in the campus to lend money to the poor. But that did not work. The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy. After all my efforts, over several months, failed I offered to become a guarantor for the loans to the poor. I was stunned by the result. The poor paid back their loans, on time, every time! But still I kept confronting difficulties in expanding the program through the existing banks. That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank or Village bank.
Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income generating, housing, student and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members. Since it introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.
In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. Financially, it is self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of Grameen Bank today amount to 143 per cent of all outstanding loans. According to Grameen Bank's internal survey, 58 per cent of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line.
Grameen Bank was born as a tiny homegrown project run with the help of several of my students, all local girls and boys. Three of these students are still with me in Grameen Bank, after all these years, as its topmost executives. They are here today to receive this honour you give us.
This idea, which began in Jobra, a small village in Bangladesh, has spread around the world and there are now Grameen type programs in almost every country. Second Generation
It is 30 years now since we began. We keep looking at the children of our borrowers to see what has been the impact of our work on their lives. The women who are our borrowers always gave topmost priority to the children. One of the Sixteen Decisions developed and followed by them was to send children to school. Grameen Bank encouraged them, and before long all the children were going to school. Many of these children made it to the top of their class. We wanted to celebrate that, so we introduced scholarships for talented students. Grameen Bank now gives 30,000 scholarships every year.
Many of the children went on to higher education to become doctors, engineers, college teachers and other professionals. We introduced student loans to make it easy for Grameen students to complete higher education. Now some of them have PhD's. There are 13,000 students on student loans. Over 7,000 students are now added to this number annually.
We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families way out of the reach of poverty. We want to make a break in the historical continuation of poverty. Beggars Can Turn to Business
In Bangladesh 80 percent of the poor families have already been reached with microcredit. We are hoping that by 2010, 100 per cent of the poor families will be reached.
Three years ago we started an exclusive programme focusing on the beggars. None of Grameen Bank's rules apply to them. Loans are interest-free; they can pay whatever amount they wish, whenever they wish. We gave them the idea to carry small merchandise such as snacks, toys or household items, when they went from house to house for begging. The idea worked. There are now 85,000 beggars in the program. About 5,000 of them have already stopped begging completely. Typical loan to a beggar is $12.
We encourage and support every conceivable intervention to help the poor fight out of poverty. We always advocate microcredit in addition to all other interventions, arguing that microcredit makes those interventions work better.Information Technology for the Poor
Information and communication technology (ICT) is quickly changing the world, creating distanceless, borderless world of instantaneous communications. Increasingly, it is becoming less and less costly. I saw an opportunity for the poor people to change their lives if this technology could be brought to them to meet their needs.
As a first step to bring ICT to the poor we created a mobile phone company, Grameen Phone. We gave loans from Grameen Bank to the poor women to buy mobile phones to sell phone services in the villages. We saw the synergy between microcredit and ICT.
The phone business was a success and became a coveted enterprise for Grameen borrowers. Telephone-ladies quickly learned and innovated the ropes of the telephone business, and it has become the quickest way to get out of poverty and to earn social respectability. Today there are nearly 300,000 telephone ladies providing telephone service in all the villages of Bangladesh . Grameen Phone has more than 10 million subscribers, and is the largest mobile phone company in the country. Although the number of telephone-ladies is only a small fraction of the total number of subscribers, they generate 19 per cent of the revenue of the company. Out of the nine board members who are attending this grand ceremony today 4 are telephone-ladies.
Grameen Phone is a joint-venture company owned by Telenor of Norway and Grameen Telecom of Bangladesh. Telenor owns 62 per cent share of the company, Grameen Telecom owns 38 per cent. Our vision was to ultimately convert this company into a social business by giving majority ownership to the poor women of Grameen Bank. We are working towards that goal. Someday Grameen Phone will become another example of a big enterprise owned by the poor. Free Market Economy
Capitalism centers on the free market. It is claimed that the freer the market, the better is the result of capitalism in solving the questions of what, how, and for whom. It is also claimed that the individual search for personal gains brings collective optimal result.
I am in favor of strengthening the freedom of the market. At the same time, I am very unhappy about the conceptual restrictions imposed on the players in the market. This originates from the assumption that entrepreneurs are one-dimensional human beings, who are dedicated to one mission in their business lives − to maximize profit. This interpretation of capitalism insulates the entrepreneurs from all political, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental dimensions of their lives. This was done perhaps as a reasonable simplification, but it stripped away the very essentials of human life.
Human beings are a wonderful creation embodied with limitless human qualities and capabilities. Our theoretical constructs should make room for the blossoming of those qualities, not assume them away.
Many of the world's problems exist because of this restriction on the players of free-market. The world has not resolved the problem of crushing poverty that half of its population suffers. Healthcare remains out of the reach of the majority of the world population. The country with the richest and freest market fails to provide healthcare for one-fifth of its population.
We have remained so impressed by the success of the free-market that we never dared to express any doubt about our basic assumption. To make it worse, we worked extra hard to transform ourselves, as closely as possible, into the one-dimensional human beings as conceptualized in the theory, to allow smooth functioning of free market mechanism.
By defining "entrepreneur" in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market. Let us suppose an entrepreneur, instead of having a single source of motivation (such as, maximizing profit), now has two sources of motivation, which are mutually exclusive, but equally compelling − a) maximization of profit and b) doing good to people and the world.
Each type of motivation will lead to a separate kind of business. Let us call the first type of business a profit-maximizing business, and the second type of business as social business.
Social business will be a new kind of business introduced in the market place with the objective of making a difference in the world. Investors in the social business could get back their investment, but will not take any dividend from the company. Profit would be ploughed back into the company to expand its outreach and improve the quality of its product or service. A social business will be a non-loss, non-dividend company.
Once social business is recognized in law, many existing companies will come forward to create social businesses in addition to their foundation activities. Many activists from the non-profit sector will also find this an attractive option. Unlike the non-profit sector where one needs to collect donations to keep activities going, a social business will be self-sustaining and create surplus for expansion since it is a non-loss enterprise. Social business will go into a new type of capital market of its own, to raise capital.
Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge, which excites them, within the present capitalist world. Socialism gave them a dream to fight for. Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own.
Almost all social and economic problems of the world will be addressed through social businesses. The challenge is to innovate business models and apply them to produce desired social results cost-effectively and efficiently. Healthcare for the poor, financial services for the poor, information technology for the poor, education and training for the poor, marketing for the poor, renewable energy − these are all exciting areas for social businesses.
Social business is important because it addresses very vital concerns of mankind. It can change the lives of the bottom 60 per cent of world population and help them to get out of poverty. Grameen's Social Business
Even profit maximizing companies can be designed as social businesses by giving full or majority ownership to the poor. This constitutes a second type of social business. Grameen Bank falls under this category of social business.
The poor could get the shares of these companies as gifts by donors, or they could buy the shares with their own money. The borrowers with their own money buy Grameen Bank shares, which cannot be transferred to non-borrowers. A committed professional team does the day-to-day running of the bank.
Bilateral and multi-lateral donors could easily create this type of social business. When a donor gives a loan or a grant to build a bridge in the recipient country, it could create a "bridge company" owned by the local poor. A committed management company could be given the responsibility of running the company. Profit of the company will go to the local poor as dividend, and towards building more bridges. Many infrastructure projects, like roads, highways, airports, seaports, utility companies could all be built in this manner.
Grameen has created two social businesses of the first type. One is a yogurt factory, to produce fortified yogurt to bring nutrition to malnourished children, in a joint venture with Danone. It will continue to expand until all malnourished children of Bangladesh are reached with this yogurt. Another is a chain of eye-care hospitals. Each hospital will undertake 10,000 cataract surgeries per year at differentiated prices to the rich and the poor. Social Stock Market
To connect investors with social businesses, we need to create social stock market where only the shares of social businesses will be traded. An investor will come to this stock-exchange with a clear intention of finding a social business, which has a mission of his liking. Anyone who wants to make money will go to the existing stock-market.
To enable a social stock-exchange to perform properly, we will need to create rating agencies, standardization of terminology, definitions, impact measurement tools, reporting formats, and new financial publications, such as, The Social Wall Street Journal. Business schools will offer courses and business management degrees on social businesses to train young managers how to manage social business enterprises in the most efficient manner, and, most of all, to inspire them to become social business entrepreneurs themselves. Role of Social Businesses in GlobalizationI support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaw will be thrown off the highway. In order to have a win-win globalization we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and traffic authority for this global highway. Rule of "strongest takes it all" must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong. Globalization must not become financial imperialism.
Powerful multi-national social businesses can be created to retain the benefit of globalization for the poor people and poor countries. Social businesses will either bring ownership to the poor people, or keep the profit within the poor countries, since taking dividends will not be their objective. Direct foreign investment by foreign social businesses will be exciting news for recipient countries. Building strong economies in the poor countries by protecting their national interest from plundering companies will be a major area of interest for the social businesses. We Create What We Want
We get what we want, or what we don't refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.
We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want.
What we want and how we get to it depends on our mindsets. It is extremely difficult to change mindsets once they are formed. We create the world in accordance with our mindset. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mindset quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our mindset.
We Can Put Poverty in the Museums
I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social system that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.
Poverty is created because we built our theoretical framework on assumptions which under-estimates human capacity, by designing concepts, which are too narrow (such as concept of business, credit- worthiness, entrepreneurship, employment) or developing institutions, which remain half-done (such as financial institutions, where poor are left out). Poverty is caused by the failure at the conceptual level, rather than any lack of capability on the part of people.
I firmly believe that we can create a poverty-free world if we collectively believe in it. In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums. When school children take a tour of the poverty museums, they would be horrified to see the misery and indignity that some human beings had to go through. They would blame their forefathers for tolerating this inhuman condition, which existed for so long, for so many people.
A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution.
Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.
To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.
Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by expressing my deep gratitude to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing that poor people, and especially poor women, have both the potential and the right to live a decent life, and that microcredit helps to unleash that potential.
I believe this honor that you give us will inspire many more bold initiatives around the world to make a historical breakthrough in ending global poverty.
Thank you very much.