Quotes from Banker to the Poor, by Mohammad Yunus

- ‘There are many ways for people to die, but somehow dying of starvation is the most unacceptable of all. It happens in slow motion. Second by second, the distance between life and death becomes smaller and smaller, until the two are in such close proximity that one can hardly tell the difference. Like sheep, death by starvation happens so quietly, so inexorably, one does not even sense it happening. And all for lack of a handful of rice at each meal.’ (viii)
- ‘I used to feel a thrill at teaching my students the elegant economic theories that could supposedly cure societal problems of all types. But in 1974, I started to dread my own lectures. What good were all my complex theories when people were dying of starvation on the sidewalks and porches across from my lecture halls?’ (viii)
- ‘I wanted to teach my university students how to understand the life of one single poor person. When you hold the world in your palm and inspect it only from a bird’s eye view, you tend to become arrogant – you do not realize that things get blurred when seen from an enormous distance. I opted instead for ‘the worm’s eye view.’ I hoped that if I studied poverty at close range, I would understand it more keenly. My repeated trips to the villages around the Chittagong University campus led me to discoveries that were essential to establishing the Grameen Bank. The poor taught me an entirely new economics. I learned about the problems that they face from their own perspective. I tried a great number of things. Some worked. Others did not. One that worked well was to offer people tiny loans for self-improvement. These loans provided a starting point for cottage industries and other income-generating activities that used the skills the borrowers already had.’ (ix)
- ‘[His professor] was known as a terror on campus. He flunked many students and it was rumored that he ruined many students’ academic careers. But I thought he was wonderful. He taught me simple lessons that I never forgot and precise economic models that would eventually help me build up Grameen. Through him I realized there was little need for memorizing economic formulas. Far more important was to understand the underlying concepts that drive them to work. He also taught me that things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.’ (19)
- ‘On December 16, 1971Bangladesh won its war of independence. The war had taken a heavy toll. Three million Bangladeshis had been killed and 10 million had left the country in search of safety in neighboring India . Millions more were the victims of rape and other atrocities committed by the Pakistani army.’ (29)
- ‘It was a shame to let the land around a university campus remain barren. If a university is a repository for knowledge, then some of this knowledge should spill over to the neighboring community. A university must not be an island where academics reach out to higher and higher levels of knowledge without sharing any of their findings.’ (34)
- ‘What I did not yet know about hunger, but would find out over the next twenty-two years, was that brilliant theorists of economics do not find it worthwhile to spend time discussing issues of poverty and hunger. They believe that these will be resolved when general economic prosperity increases. These economists spend all their talents detailing the processes of development and prosperity, but rarely reflect on the origin and development of poverty and hunger. As a result, poverty continues.’ (35)
- ‘Through the Chittagong University Rural Development Project, I encouraged my students to go with me into the village and devise creative ways to improve day-to-day life there. By now I had almost completely abandoned classical book learning in favor of hands-on, person-to-person experience. Based on their experiences in the village, students could also choose a topic and write a research paper for course credit.’ (37)
- ‘The more I studied Jobra’s poverty, the more I realized how important it was to differentiate between the really poor and the marginal farmers. International development programs in rural areas always focus on farmers and landowners. In Bangaldesh, half of the total population is worse off than the marginal farmer.’ (40)
- ‘In the world of development, if one mixes the poor and the nonpoor in a program, the nonpoor will always drive out the poor, and the less poor will drive out the more poor, unless protective measures are instituted right at the beginning.’ (42)
- ‘Sufiya Begum earned two cents a day. It was this knowledge that shocked me. In my university courses, I theorized about sums in the millions of dollars, but here before my eyes the problems of life and death were posed in terms of pennies. Something was wrong. Why did my university courses not reflect the reality of Sufiya’s life? I was angry, angry at myself, angry at my economics professors who had not tried to address this problem and solve it… I had never heard of someone suffering for a lack of twenty-two cents. It seemed impossible to me, preposterous.’ (48)
- ‘ She did not have the cash necessary to buy her raw materials. As a result, she could survive only in a tight cycle – borrowing from the trader and selling back to him. Her life was a form of bonded labor, or slavery. The trader made certain that he paid Sufiya a price that barely covered the cost of the materials and was just enough to keep her alive. She could not break free of her exploitative relationship with him. To survive, she just needed to keep working through the trader.’ (48)
- ‘It seemed to me that Sufiya’s status as a bonded slave would only cange if she could find that five taka for her bamboo. Credit could bring her that money. She could then sell her products in a free market and charge the full retail price to the consumer. She just needed twenty-two cents.’ (49)
- ‘People like Sufiya were poor not because they were stupid or lazy. They worked all day long, doing complex physical tasks. They were poor because the financial institutions in the country did not help them widen their economic base. No formal financial structure was available to cater to the credit needs of the poor.’ (50)
- ‘ ‘Yes, we want our money back,’ explained the manager. ‘But at the same time we need collateral. That is our guarantee.’ ‘To me, it doesn’t make sense. The poorest of the poor work twelve hours a day. They need to sell and earn income to eat. They have every reason to pay you back, just to take another loan and live another day! That is the best security you can have – their life.’ ’ (54)
- ‘To my great surprise, the repayment of loans by people who borrow without collateral has proven to be much better than those whose borrowings are secured by assets. Indeed, more than 98 percent of our loans are repaid. The poor know that this credit is their only opportunity to break out of poverty. They do not have any cushion whatsoever to fall back on. If they fall afoul of this one loan, they will have lost their one and only chance to get out of the rut.’ (57-58)
- ‘Conventional banks and credit cooperatives usually demand lump sum payments. Parting with a large amount of cash at the end of a loan period is often psychologically trying for borrowers. They try to delay the repayment as long as they can and in the process they make the loan grow bigger and bigger. In the end, they decide not to pay back the loan at all. Such long-term lump sum payments also prompt both borrowers and lenders to ignore difficulties that come up early on; rather than tackle problems as they appear, they hope that the problems will go away by the time the loan is due. In structuring our credit program, I decided to do exactly the opposite of traditional banks. To overcome the psychological barrier of parting with large sums, I decided to institute a daily payment program. I made the loan payments so small that borrowers would barely miss the money. And for ease in accounting, I decided to ask that the loans be paid back fully in one year. Thus, a 365 taka loan could be paid at the rate of 1 taka a day over the course of one year.’ (61)
- ‘Slowly my colleagues and I developed our own delivery-recovery mechanism and, of course, we made many mistakes along the way. We adapted our ideas and changed our procedures as we grew. For example, when we discovered that support groups were crucial to the success of our operations, we required that each applicant join a group of like-minded people living in similar economic and social conditions. Convinced that solidarity would be stronger if the groups came into being by themselves, we refrained from managing them, but we did create incentives that encouraged the borrowers to help one another succeed in their business.’ (62)
- ‘Once the group of five is formed, we extend loans to two members of the group. If these two repay regularly for the next six weeks, two more members may request loans. The chairperson of the group is normally the last borrower of the five. But often, just when the group is ready, one of the five members changes her mind, saying, ‘No, my husband won’t agree. He doesn’t want me to join the bank.’ So the group falls back to four, or three, or sometimes back to one. And that one has to start all over again. It can take anywhere from a few days to several months for a group to be recognized or certified by Grameen Bank. To gain recognition, all the members of a group of five prospective borrowers have to present themselves to the bank, undergo at least seven days of training on our policies, and demonstrate their understanding of those policies in an oral examination administered by a senior bank official.’ (63)
- ‘The pressure provided by the group and the exam helps ensure that only those who are truly needy and serious about joining Grameen will actually become members.’ (64)
- ‘Today we have distilled our repayment mechanism to the following formula:
Loans last one year.
Installments are paid weekly.
Repayment starts one week after the loan.
The interest rate is 20 percent.
Repayment amounts to 2 percent of the loan amount per week for fifty weeks.
- ‘Interest payments amount to 2 taka per week for every 1,000 taka of the loan amount.’ (68-69)
- ‘Our loans are still paid in the same way, week by week, though now they are made to our frontline bank workers who meet weekly with borrowers in their villages.’ (70)
- ‘If Grameen was to work, we knew we had to trust our clients. From day one, we knew that there would be no room for policing in our system.’ (70)
- ‘Even when borrowers do default on a loan, we do not assume that they are malevolent. Instead, we assume that personal circumstances have prevented them from repaying the money. Bad loans present a constant reminder of the need to do more to help our clients succeed.’ (70-71)
- ‘We set a goal of having half of our borrowers be women.’ (71)
- ‘The more money we lent to poor women, the more I realized that credit given to a woman brings about change faster than when given to a man.’ (72)
- ‘Though they cannot read or write and have rarely been allowed to step out of their homes alone, poor women see further and are willing to work harder to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. They pay more attention, prepare their children to live better lives, and are more consistent in their performance than men. When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman’s second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set or priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself.’ (72)
- ‘We usually tried to recruit our women workers when they had just finished their studies and were either waiting to be married or were married with an unemployed husband.’ (78)
- ‘On her first day, I asked Nurajahan to do a case study of Ammajan Amina, a poor woman of Jobra cillage who had no means of subsistence. I did this for three reasons. First, I believe that the best way to inspire a new worker is to let her see first hand the real-life problems of the poor. I wanted Nurajahan to have her heart touched by the reality of poverty. Second, I wanted to see how Nurajahan would cope.’ (80)
- ‘ ‘The urban poor are another problem,’ Anisuzzaman said with a loud sigh. ‘If we alleviate suffering in the countryside, that will reduce the pressure on the poor to rush to Dhaka and clog the streets,’ I said.’ (94)
- ‘The villages we passed through seemed so godforsaken and the people so poor and emaciated that I knew I had come to the right place. This is where we were needed the most.’ (97)
- ‘The ex-Gonobahini turned out to be excellent workers. These underground fighters were young (usually between eighteen and twenty years old), hard working, and dedicated. They had wanted to liberate the country with guns and revolution, and now they were walking around those same villages extending micro-loans to the destitute. They just needed a cause to fight for.’ (98)
- ‘I am all for that change. And if that managing director lived in the poorest villages of Tangail and Chittagong , he would be all for it too.’ (99)
- ‘From those early days, we learned the importance of picking fresh young people to run our branches. Surprisingly, people without previous work experience of any kind are often best suited for this. Previous work experience distracts new workers from the ideals and unique procedures of Grameen. Many young managers embraced Grameen as a great opportunity. They loved the thrill of experiment and adventure. Responsible for setting up the local Grameen branch, the manger chooses the general location of the future office and draws a map of the area. He writes reports on the village’s history, culture, economy, and poverty situation. To give Grameen maximum exposure, the manager then invites all the people in nearby villages, including village leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and government officials, to a ‘projection meeting’ at which a high-ranking Grameen official explains the bank’s procedures in detail, giving the villagers the option to either accept Grameen with all its rules and regulations or to reject it, in which case the bank promises to leave the area. So far, no one has ever asked us to leave, but we like to make it clear from the start that the choice to have us is theirs.’ (100)
- ‘Anyone younger than twenty-eight with a master’s degree and at least a B average in all final examinations is eligible to apply for a job as one of our bank managers. We advertise in the national newspapers and receive a large number of applications. Half of these applicants would make first-class bank managers for Grameen. But since our training facilities are limited, we screen the candidates through interviews to pick only a limited number. Those we select are asked to report to our training institute. Here they receive a two-day briefing, and then we send them off to various branches, where they remain in training for most of the following six months. Before they go, the institute tells them, ‘Observe everything carefully. When your training is over, your task will be to create a Grameen branch of your own that will be better in every respect than the one in which you spent your first six months.’ (101)
- ‘When they reassemble at our training institute in the Dhaka headquarters, they present their improvement proposals to their colleagues. After their spell in the field, the trainees always bring in a breath of fresh air. They also bring keen observations and sharp criticisms.’ (102)
- ‘Here is a typical Grameen bank worker, a composite of the 12,000 workers we now employ, and a typical day’s work:
1. Name: Akhtar Hossain
2. Age: 27
3. Monthly salary: 2,200 taka ($66), including housing allowance, medical subsidy, and commuting allowance
4. Bonus: One month’s salary paid during each of the two Eid holidays
6 A.M. Akhtar wakes up, washes, prays, eats breakfast.
7 A.M. Akhtar fetches his bicycle, documents, and carrying bag from the branch and pedals to a center.
7:30 A.M. Forty bank borrowers await Akhtar at the center. They are seated in eight rows, organized according to group. Each chairperson holds the passbooks of the five group members. Akhtar collects the loan repayments and deposits from each group.
9:30 A.M. Akhtar bicycles to another center for his second meeting. During the course of the week, he attends to ten different centers, meeting with all 400 borrowers he is responsible for and collecting repayments for general loans, seasonal loans, and housing loans, as well as savings deposits.
11 A.M. Akhtar visits borrowers at home and offers advice. This is an important way to keep track of his borrowers’ needs and problems.
Noon. Back at the branch office, Akhtar fills out all the reporting forms and enters all the records in his ledger. The branch manager signs off.
1:30-200 P.M. Akhtar takes a lunch break with his fellow workers.
2 P.M. Funds collected in the morning are disbursed as new loans in the afternoon. All workers help the branch manager with this task.
3 P.M. Once the loan disbursements are finished, Akhtar and his fellow workers record the new loan information in the ledgers.
4:30 P.M. Akhtar takes a tea break and chats with his fellow workers.
5:00-6:30 P.M. Akhtar visits a center that is experiencing difficulties with loans or organizes an educational outreach program for local children.
7:00 P.M. Akhtar returns to the office, finishes some paperwork, and retires for the day.’ (104-105)
- ‘They arrive without any formal introduction. They have no office, no place to stay, and no one to get in touch with. Their first assignment is to document everything about the area. Why do we provide them with so little orientation? We want them to appear as different as possible from the usually government officials who arrive in the villages with great pomp, expecting delicious meals and comfortable accommodations at the rich villagers’ houses. Grameen tries to create a new breed of ‘officials’ with fresh ideas and modest ways. Therefore our managers and associates must pay for a room and are not permitted to stay in fancy surroundings. They may find shelter at some abandoned house, school hostel, or local council office. They must decline offers of food from the well-to-do, explaining that this is against Grameen rules.’ (106)
- ‘Come rain or shine, they never stop visiting the poor. They are not allowed to take shortcuts by appointing villagers as agents, the usual practice of government officials. And ultimately, it is not their words but their hard work that softens the attitude of the villagers.’ (106)
- ‘Islam does not inherently prevent women from making a living for themselves or from improving their economic situation. In 1994, the adviser on women’s affairs to the president of Iran came to visit me in Dhaka, and when I asked her what she thought about Grameen, she said, ‘There is nothing is Shariah law or the Quran against what you are doing. Why should women be hungry and poor? On the contrary, what you are doing is terrific. You are helping to educate a whole generation of children. And thanks to Grameen loans, women can work at home, instead of sitting around.’ (109-110)
- ‘We tried a variety of techniques, and after a few years we learned that our staff members should quietly go about their business in one tiny corner of the village. If just a handful of desperate women make a leap of faith and join Grameen, everything changes.’ (110)
- ‘After all these struggles, repeated in thousands of villages, it is frustrating to hear people dismiss our accomplishments, arguing that Grameen’s success is due to cultural factors that cannot be replicated elsewhere. To succeed in Bangladesh, in many ways we have had to struggle against our culture.’ (110-111)
- ‘[We] integrated housing loans into our program, expanded our social development efforts, and experimented with irrigation loans and other seasonal loan programs.’ (124)
- ‘Grameen’s aggressive expansion program saw us adding approximately one hundred new branches every year. These new branches were of very high quality as six years of experimentation in Jobra and tangail had taught us a great deal and allowed us to refine our metholodology. By 1985, we had an impressive cadre of young professionals with several years of village experience behind them who were able to guide and manage hundreds, and later thousands, of new recruits.’ (127)
- ‘I tried to postpone our move to the capital city – where powerful bureaucrats seem to inevitably [sic] lose touch with the rural reality – but by 1983 we had no choice. Still, I insisted that everyone make a solemn commitment to stay true to our rural grassroots origins. We decided that no one should work in the head office who had not spent several years working in one of our rural branches, a rule that we have only broken a handful of times over the past fifteen years.’ (127-128)
- ‘We have extended a total of $178 million in loans to build more than 482,000 houses with near-perfect repayment in weekly installments. The housing programs of the conventional commercial banks cannot boast such success… Our position was also vindicated when Grameen’s housing program was chosen in 1989 by a jury of some of the top architects in the world to receive the Aga Khan International Award for Architecture. At the awards ceremony in Cairo , distinguished architects kept asking me who the architect was who had designed our prototype, a compact $300 house. I answered that no professional architect ever designed the houses built by our borrowers. It is the borrowers who are the architects of their own houses – as they are the architects of their own fate.’ (130)
- ‘Governments and population agencies are not putting nearly as much effort into changing the quality of life of the poor as they put into their scare tactics, such as pressuring illiterate men and women to physically [sic] remove their ability to procreate. UN studies conducted in more than forty developing countries show that the birth rate falls as women gain equality. The reasons for this are numerous. Education delays marriage and procreation; better-educated women are more likely to use contraceptives and more likely to earn a livelihood. I believe that income-earning opportunities that empower poor women and bring them into organizational folds will have more impact on curbing population growth than the current system of ‘encouraging’ family planning practices through intimidation tactics. ‘Family’ planning should be left to the family. The Grameen Bank is often cited in population discussions because the adoption of family planning measures among Grameen families is twice the national rate of Bangladesh . During the Cairo Population Conference of September 1994, it was also noted that the birth rate among Gramenn families is significantly lower than the national average. Once they have increased their incomes through self-employment, Grameen borrowers show remarkable determination to have fewer children, educate the ones they have, and participate actively in our democracy. If micro-credit can help bring family-planning awareness to families, why do not governmental and international agencies, which are so concerned about population growth, promote micro-credit more actively than they do? Could it be because micro-credit runs as a profit-oriented business? Are there vested interests in the current population programs? I believe that the emphasis on curbing population growth diverts attention from the more vital issue of pursuing policies that allow the population to take care of itself. The sooner we rearrange our priorities, the better it will be for all people on the planet, now and in the future.’ (134)
- ‘Today, at every Grameen branch, our members take enormous pride in reciting the Sixteen Decisions. They are as follows:
1. We shall follow and advance the four principles of the Grameen Bank – discipline, unity, courage, and hard work – in all walks of our lives.
2. Prosperity we shall bring to our families.
3. We shall not live in a dilapidated house. We shall repair our houses and work toward constructing new houses at the earliest opportunity.
4. We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus.
5. During the plantation seasons, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible.
6. We shall plan to keep out families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health.
7. We shall educate our children and ensure that they can earn to pay for their education.
8. We shall always keep our children and the environment.
9. We shall build and use pit latrines.
10. We shall drink water from tube wells. If they are not available, we shall boil water or use alum to purify it.
11. We shall not take any dowry at our sons’ weddings; neither shall we give any dowry at our daughter’s wedding. We shall keep the center free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage.
12. We shall not commit any injustice, and we will oppose anyone who tries to do so.
13. We shall collectively undertake larger investments for higher incomes.
14. We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help him or her.
15. If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any center, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
16. We shall introduce physical exercises in all our centers. We shall take part in all social activities collectively.’ (135-137)
- ‘These decisions are a demonstration that the poor, once economically empowered, are the most determined fighters in the battle to solve the population problem, end illiteracy, and live healthier, better lives. When policy makers finally realize that the poor are their partners, rather than bystanders or enemies, we will progress much faster than we do today.’ (137)
- ‘No matter what cataclysm, weather disaster, or personal tragedy befalls a borrower, our philosophy is always to get that person to pay back his or her loan, even if it is only at the rate of a half penny a week. This discipline is meant to boost the borrower’s sense of self-reliance, pride, and confidence. To forgive a loan can undo years of difficult work in getting that borrower to believe in his or her own ability. If a flood or a famine decimates a village and kills borrowers’ crops or animals, we immediately lend them new money to start up again. We never wipe out old loans, but convert them into very long term loans and try to get the borrower to pay them off more slowly and in smaller installments. In the extreme case where a borrower dies, we disburse funds from the Central Emergency Fund (a life insurance fund for borrowers) to the deceased family as soon as possible.’ (137)
- ‘From the very beginning, Grameen has gone against traditional methods of poverty alleviation by handing out cash without any attempt to first [sic] provide skills training… Why give credit first? I firmly believe that all human beings have an innate skill. I call it the survival skill. The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability. They do not need us to teach them how to survive; they already know how to do this.’ (140)
- ‘Government decision-makers, many NGOs, and international consultants usually start the work of poverty alleviation by launching very elaborate training programs. They do this because they begin with the assumption that people are poor because they lack skills. Training also perpetuates their own interests – by creating more jobs for themselves without the responsibility of having to produce any concrete results. Thanks to the flow of aid and welfare budgets, a huge industry has evolved worldwide for the sole purpose of providing such training. Experts on poverty alleviation insist that training is absolutely vital for the poor to move up the economic ladder. But if you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor.’ (141)
- ‘I believe that many training programs are counterproductive. If Grameen had required borrowers to attend a training program in business management before taking out a loan to start a business, most of them would have been scared away. Formal learning is a threatening experience for our borrowers. It can even destroy their natural capacity or make them feel small, stupid, and useless.’ (141)
- ‘This is not to say that all training is bad. But training should not be forced on people. It should be offered only when they actively seek it out and are willing to pay in kind of cash to obtain it.’ (142)
- ‘We at the Grameen Bank have never wanted or accepted World Bank funding because we do not like the way the bank conducts business. Their expert and consultants often take over the projects they finance. They do not rest until they have molded things their way. We do not want anyone to come and meddle with our system or to tell us how to behave.’ (143)
- ‘Officials determine target amounts for each country. The more money officials mange to give out, the better grade they receive as lending officers. Therefore young, ambitious officers of a donor agency will choose the projects with the biggest price tag. By moving a lot of money, their name moves up the promotion ladder… For instance, they will rent newly built, expensive houses owned by government officials or invite them on attractive foreign trips under the guise of official workshops and conferences. Consultants, suppliers, and potential contractors often facilitate this bribing mechanism. After all, they are the ones who most benefit from projects funded by donors.’ (145)
- ‘The situation is the same in all countries receiving aid, which amounts to $50-$55 billion a year. Aid-funded projects create massive bureaucracies, which quickly become corrupt and inefficient, incurring huge losses. In a world that trumpets the superiority of the market economy and free enterprise, aid money still goes to expand government spending, often acting against the interests of the market economy. Most foreign aid goes to building roads, bridges, and so forth, which are supposed to help the poor ‘in the long run.’ The only people really benefiting from most of this aid, however, are those who are already wealthy. Foreign aid becomes a kind of charity for the powerful while the poor get poorer. If aid is to have some impact on the lives of the destitute, it must be rerouted so that it reaches poor households more directly. I believe that a new aid methodology has to be designed with new objectives. In fact, the direct elimination of poverty should be the objective of all development aid. Development should be viewed as a human rights issue, not as a question of simply increasing the gross national product (GNP). When the national economy picks up, the situation of the poor is not necessarily improved. Therefore development should be redefined. It should refer only to a positive measurable change in per capita income of the bottom 50 percent of the population.’ (145-146)
- ‘When I talked about micro-credit in the 1980s, whether to World Bank economists or journalists, most people assumed that I was trying to alleviate poverty by lending to small businesses that would expand and hire the poor. It took people a while to see that I actually advocated lending to the poor directly.’ (149)
- ‘If economists would only recognize the powerful socioeconomic implications of credit, they might recognize the need to promote credit as a human right.’ (150)
- ‘The shortcomings of the core economic theories remain unchallenged. Microeconomic theory, for example, which plays a central role in the analytical framework of economics, is incomplete. It views individual human beings as either consumers or laborers and essentially ignores their potential as self-employed individuals.’ (150)
- ‘I believe that several micro-credit ‘wholesalers’ like PKSF should be set up in every country so that they can compete against each other. The retail institutions, and the poor people themselves, will benefit directly from this competition.’ (166)
- ‘I also think that a larger percentage of CGAP funds should go directly into the hands of poor women instead of going to consultancies, international conferences, and research studies.’ (168)
- ‘Micro-credit is not a miracle cure that can eliminate poverty in one fell swoop. But it can end poverty for many and reduce its severity for others. Combined with innovative programs that unleash people’s potential, micro-credit is an essential tool in our search for a poverty-free world.’ (171)
- ‘Skeptics argued that the five-woman group idea would not work because Americans are too naturally independent. Not only did the peer system work, it worked in one of the toughest neighborhoods of inner-city Chicago .’ (185-186)
- ‘Maybe Grameen upsets too many preconceived European ideas. In the developed world, my greatest nemesis is the tenacity of the social welfare system. Over and over, our clones have run into the same problem: Recipients of a monthly handout from the government feel as afraid to start a business as the purdah-covered women in Bengali villages. Many calculate the amount of welfare money and insurance coverage they would lose by becoming self-employed and conclude the risk is not worth the effort.’ (189-190)
- ‘Selecting leaders through democratic means was not new to Grameen borrowers. All Grameen groups elect a chairperson and secretary, and each center chooses a center chief and deputy center chief from among the group chairpersons. So I was not surprised to see how enthusiastically our borrowers embraced the idea of exercising their democratic rights in the national election of 1991. The members of many centers paraded to the voting booths with banners reminding everyone that they were from a Grameen Bank center and were voting as a block. In some cases, local politicians asked if they could address Grameen center meetings.’ (196)
- ‘In 1996, Grameen borrowers led the way to an almost unthinkable feat – more women voted in the national election than men, which helped to nearly wipe a political party that had take positions against women’s rights out of Parliament… Two Grameen male borrowers and fifty-seven male family members were voted in as chiefs of local bodies. These successful candidates constituted 6 percent of the total elected representatives in all the local bodies in the country. These astonishing results proved to us that once Grameen borrowers grew in self-esteem they would readily express their doubts.’ (196)
- ‘We declared a new goal: to make every Grameen branch ‘poverty-free’ within an allotted period of time. How did we define ‘poverty-free’? After interviewing many borrowers about what a poverty-free life meant to them, we developed a set of ten indicators that our staff and outside evaluators could use to measure whether a family in rural Bangladesh lived a poverty-free life. These indicators are: (1) having a house with a tin roof; (2) having beds or cots for all members of the family; (3) having access to safe drinking water; (4) having access to a sanitary latrine; (5) having all school-age children attending school; (6) having sufficient warm clothing for the winter; (7) having mosquito nets; (8) having a home vegetable garden; (9) having no food shortages, even during the most difficult time of a very difficult year; and (10) having sufficient income-earning opportunities for all adult members of the family.’ (202)
- ‘Grameen, a for-profit bank, could also be organized as a for-profit enterprise of a non-profit organization.’ (204)
- ‘I believe that government, as we now know it, should pull out of most things except for law enforcement, the justice system, national defense, and foreign policy, and let the private sector, a “Grameenized private sector,’ a social-consciousness-driven private sector, take over its other functions.’ (204)
- ‘I try to avoid grandiloquent philosophies and theories and ‘isms.’ I take a pragmatic approach grounded in social considerations. In everything I do, I try to be practical. I rely on learning by doing, while making sure that I am moving toward achieving a social objective.’ (205)
- ‘But – and note this, development specialists around the world – not one single Grameen borrower requires any special training. They either have already received this training as part of their household chores or have acquired the necessary skills in their field of work. All they need is financial capital.’ (205)
- ‘I profoundly believe, as Grameen’s experience over twenty years has shown, that personal gain is not the only possible fuel for free enterprise. Social goals can replace greed as a powerful motivational force.’ (206)
- ‘We have presumed that the profit maximizer has no interest in achieving social objectives. We then postulated that true entrepreneurs are a rare and special breed of people whom society should feel lucky to have.’ (206)
- ‘Indeed, in some countries, like the United States , corporate law requires the maximization of profits. Shareholders can sue an executive or a board of directors that use corporate funds to benefit society as a whole rather than to maximize the profits of the shareholders… If we leave no room for them in our theoretical framework, we will be encouraging human beings to behave without respect to social values. The market, of course, needs rules for the efficient allocation of resources. I propose that we replace the narrow profit-maximization principle with a generalized principle – an entrepreneur maximizes a bundle consisting of two components: (a) profit and (b) social returns, subject to the condition that profit cannot be negative.’ (208)
- ‘When the government wants to help the poor it usually comes up with a policy of free distribution – free distribution of money, land, or other assets. But along the way from the government to the poor, the free goods rarely reach the poor as more powerful people line up to take advantage of the distribution system.’ (217)
- ‘One Grameen borrower in each of the 68,000 villages would become the ‘telephone lady’ of the village. She sells the service of the telephone to the villagers by operating what we call a ‘village pay phone.’ Thus, the village would become connected to the world through one poor woman with access to the most modern communication system available.’ (225)
- ‘To introduce cellular phones to those villages, we are bringing in solar energy.’ (226)
- ‘By bringing Internet facilities into distant rural areas, many labor-intensive enterprises can be located in those otherwise isolated rural areas. These enterprises include data entry services, data management businesses, global answering services, typing services, transcription services, secretarial services, accounting services, and so on.’ (227)
- ‘In place of social security, we decided to offer them shares of successful Grameen companies, non-Grameen companies, and Grameen mutual funds. Basically, when a Grameen company such as the Grameen Fisheries Foundation reaches a profitable level, we transform part of it into a for-profit company coowned by Grameen borrowers and the general public through stock options.’ (230)
- ‘Poverty does not belong in civilized human society. Its proper place is in a museum. That’s where it will be. When schoolchildren go with their teachers and tour the poverty museums, they will be horrified to see the misery and indignity of human beings. They will blame their forefathers for tolerating this inhuman condition and for allowing it to continue in such a large segment of the population until the early part of the twenty-first century.’ (236)
- ‘Finally, a poverty-free world would be economically much stronger and far more stable than the world is today.’ (246)

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