"Giving the world's poor a chance" - leading economist and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus talks to Euronews

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"Giving the world's poor a chance" - leading economist and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus talks to Euronews

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A champion for the world’s poor – the Bangladeshi banker and economist, Dr. Muhammad Yunus has made his mark helping the disadvantaged to help themselves. He is the founder of the so-called “micro-credit” system which approves small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. Together with the Grameen bank which he set up, Dr.Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for stimulating economic and social development from the bottom upwards. He has been talking to EuroNews:

EuroNews: “You are the father of the micro-credit, what gave you the idea for micro-credit?”

Dr Yunus: “Well I was working in a village next door to the university campus, trying to see if I could help the poor people. And I saw the money lenders’ activities there. I wanted to see how much they were involved in it. When I made a list of people who were borrowing money from money lenders, I had 42 names on my list and the total money they borrowed was 27 dollars. So I thought I could solve this problem very easily if I gave the money from my pocket! They can pay back the money lenders and they will be free from all the restrictions. And that’s what I did. And it started: so I took the money with me signing all the papers, and gave the money to the people, and came up with some simple rules, so that it encourages them to pay back the loans, and its 100 % payment. That’s how it all began. It was in 1976.”

EuroNews: “In the last 15 years, economic growth in Bangladesh has been around 5%. The Word Bank says this is down to trade liberalisation and an increase in exports. It made no mention of micro-credit. Why is this? Do you think the economic mainstream underestimates micro-credit?”

Dr.Yunus: “The traditional way of measuring GDP doesn’t pay enough attention to the informal sector. So this is a new thing, micro-credit is a new thing, it doesn’t reflect in the GDP figures as much as it needs to be done.”

EuroNews: “Do you think that cultural differences stand in the way of economic development?”

Dr.Yunus: “Cultural things sometimes appear as a kind of barrier in the economic development. But economic development is a process of change, so you change a culture also as you go along, I mean, culture is something that adapts itself, it’s not a static thing, culture is a dynamic thing.”

EuroNews: “You have been quite critical toward EU’s Common agriculture policy. What would you propose as an alternative to this policy?”

Dr.Yunus: “One is the subsidy part of it, so opening as much as possible. We are talking about liberalization, but we continue with susbidies, so as soon as possible if the market can be open this is the way, if the agricultural products can come from the third world countries to Europe, that will help the third world countries to concentrate on agriculture and export of agriculture to Europe, that the point I was making.”

EuroNews: “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposes to create a southern bank, a bank for the Latin American countries, which is going to be mostly a social bank. What do you think of this drive towards political and economical autonomy? Do you think we are going to have the same thing in a few years even in Africa or in the South East?”

Dr.Yunus: “There are already regional banks, but all this money come from the West. The important thing that you mention, is the money coming from the south and creating their own fund, I think this is a very positive step to have your own money to create your own bank for the development purposes of your own region.”

EuroNews: “Why do you think you won the Nobel Peace Price rather than the economics Prize?”

Dr. Yunus: “Well, I was being told for the last 14, 15 years that I am going to get the Nobel Price. Some said it will be Nobel Price for Peace, some said it will be Nobel Price for Economics. When finally it was announced in 2006, it was the Nobel Price of Peace. I was very happy that it happened. Peace is an issue which attracts all people in the world, it touches everybody. So it’s a very powerful message. I am very happy that peace is linked with poverty ; poverty has been recognised as a threat to peace, which I’ve been saying for many many years. So this is a kind of endorsement of that issue, you can’t live peace just as a kind of absence of conflict, in terms of military confrontation. Peace is much more than that, peace is about how people live in the society, so that kind of highlights, the Nobel peace price coming to us emphasizes the fact that we should be paying a lot of attention to the issue of poverty.”