Friday, October 27, 2006

An interview with Malcolm Harper on micro credit in India

Malcolm Harper worked was the chairman of Basix, a livelihood promotion institution based in India. Basix does a lot more than just providing micro credit.

Harper is not anymore with Basix, and is currently the chairman of M-CRIL, a rating agency for micro credit institutions.

In a detailed interview, Harper talks about Baisx' experience in providing livelihood services in India, the general micro credit scenario in India and more.

Grameen Bank comes to India

Grameen Bank has completed formalities to start a liaison office in Mumbai. The operation will commence from January 2007, repots The Financial Express.
Some of its functions will include assisting those adopting the GB model in India, preparing project proposals, meeting training requirements, and creating awareness to make micro-credit at the ground level more effective.


GB proposes to implement its BOT model in India, too. Using this model, the bank will deploy its expertise for a fixed time until local staff recruited for the purpose acquire the necessary skills. Once the local staff is trained, GB will exit the project.

Grameen model vs Self-Help Groups - a comparison

Grameen model of microfinance has evolved in Bangladesh and is the most dominant model prevalent there. Centrally managed, dedicated microfinance institution, groups of five, highly disciplined organizational structure - that is Grameen model. The focus is primarily on lending, but every group member must save a certain amount.

In contrast, in India, the most popular model is Self-help groups. SHGs are groups of between 15-20 people. Scheduled banks provide the loans and manage the savings for the group. But the banks do not directly interact with the SHGs. Instead, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) get involved, help in forming groups, but then empower the groups to manage their own affairs. The focus is primarily on saving. Lending to group members is first sought from within the group savings, and then from the bank.

I had learnt about both the methods - about Grameen model by reading various books on the subject, and the SHG from a person who is the administrative manager of an NGO, organizing SHGs in Chennai.

SHGs are more popular in India. The Grameen replicators are very few in India.

I was wondering why these two methods are so starkly different and how two distinct methods developed in these two countries independently.

I have now found an excellent article

Grameen Bank Groups and Self-help Groups; what are the differences? Malcolm Harper (2002)

which describes the two schemes in detail, compares the two, and explains possible reasons on why Grameen model developed in Bangladesh while SHGs are more popular in India.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Microcredit in China

Like India, China also has regulatory problems which is preventing growth of Microfinance.

There are two articles of interest. One, an article by You Nuo in The Brunei Times on how there was a state controlled experiment in microcredit in China in the 11th century which failed resulting in the Prime Minister Wang Anshi who introduced it almost destroying the dynasty he was working for.
Wang Anshi (1021-86), the reform-minded prime minister of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), practised it when he began to tinker with the imperial financial system and render credit to all farmers.

Wang had a plan of changing his office into some sort of a national agricultural bank. What a good thing, he thought, if the empire could, by rendering credit to its subjects, reap a healthy inflow of interest income to finance the defence and the endless need for luxury by the court.

He failed, of course, and the failure shattered both his career and, to some extent, the empire. The idea was noble. Farmers or any other grassroots-level business owners deserved financial support. However the failure occurred in converting a clumsy bureaucracy into a direct service to millions of farmers and small business owners. It was mission impossible. By the logic of bureaucracy, there can be a banker of the poor but never a finance minister of the poor.
Cut back to modern times. Muhammad Yunus is on a touring spree and was in Beijing, China to attend the Grameen International Conference on Microcredit in China.
Some pioneering institutions, mostly domestic or overseas non-government organizations, have experimented with microcredit in China for 10 years.

But they are not sustainable because of policy and legal restriction, and insufficient funds, said Du Xiaoshan, a pioneer of microfinance research and practice in China, and also deputy director of the Rural Development Institute affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Seven private microcredit companies in China also face the same problem, as they are only allowed to provide loans but cannot accept deposits.

Yunus said not allowing micro credit companies to take deposits would greatly hinder their development, and stressed the importance of a clear and proper legal environment and supervision mechanism. Currently, China has no laws or regulations in this field.

Jiao Jinpu, deputy director of the research bureau of the People's Bank of China, said the central bank is working closely with the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce to give microfinance providers a clear legal environment to boost the development of microcredit in China.

Yunus suggested that under the current circumstances, establishing a fund from which microcredit companies could draw money might be a more practical choice.

Microfinance Fund raises second round funding

The Bellwether Microfinance Fund, a fund that invests in Microfinance Institutions in India has raised a second round financing of $10 million, reports The Financial Express.

The fund was originally set up with $10 million equity.
"The fund was set up with $10 million with contributions from our investors like Triodos, Gray Ghost Arun Duggal and Kishore Munjani. We have now firmed up another $10 million, out of which $5 million is coming from our existing promoters, while FMO, the Dutch government-owned financial institution, has provided $2.5 million in equity capital. Another $3.5-5 million is being negotiated with a major US-based financial institution," Viswanatha Prasad, one of Bellwether’s promoters, told FE.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

West Bengal Govt. claims better micro credit implementation

If you are in micro credit, you have to now compare yourself with what Yunus has achieved.

The West Bengal minister for self-help groups Rekha Goswami claims the following:
"We have been stressing micro-credit since the nineties, but have been able to make it work very successfully for the past two or three years," she said.

The West Bengal model, she claimed, was far superior to the one created by Mohammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. "In Bangladesh, the government does not support Yunus," she said.
I have no idea what they have achieved in West Bengal. They are inviting Yunus to come to Kolkata for some awards and celebrations! I hope the minister can teach a trick or two to Yunus!

Micro loans, Macro racket

Alexander Cockburn, thundering left winger, must take a dig at micro loans, since IMF and World Bank are praising micro loans.

Yunus has been given a Nobel Prize for his work in Bangladesh. Cockburn dismisses the three decade long work put in by Yunus and his bank with one big sweep:
In the statistical tables of human development Bangladesh ranks 139th, worse than India, with 49.8 percent of its population of 150 million below the official poverty line. In the homeland of the Grameen Bank, about 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day.
Yes, Yunus should be punished for this. Next, let us demolish the entire micro credit concept itself, having done the same to Yunus.
As the economist Robert Pollin put it pithily when I asked him what he thought of the award to Yunus, "Bangladesh and Bolivia are two countries widely recognized for having the most successful micro credit programs in the world. They also remain two of the poorest countries in the world."
Cockburn's primary source describing in detail the ills of micro loans is P.Sainath of The Hindu. It is unfortunate to compare the micro credit implementation in India with that of Bangladesh. In India, there is no single entity that comes anywhere close to Grameen in size and implementation. Sainath has well covered the rural problems in India, and frankly none of the problems is the doing of micro credit organizations. The blame is entirely on the governments, local moneylenders, drought and famine, and perhaps lack of good micro credit organizations. Thus, quotes from Sainath about Indian experience is taken, transformed into the failure of micro credit in the world, Bangladesh's chronic poverty and pathetic political situation and in the end we get the ultimate left wing mumbo jumbo:
The trouble with publicly subsidized credit programs is that they're public, they're large and run contrary to the neoliberal creed. That's why Yunus got his Nobel macro-prize of $1.4 million, whereas radical land reformers get a bullet in the bank of the head.
Since Yunus has powerful friends, he must also get powerful enemies. His work is irrelevent to these enemies.

Neither Yunus, nor any major proponent of micro credit has presented micro credit as the only development tool, and in oppostition to land reforms, larger government spending on poverty alleviation, publicly subsidized credit program etc. Rather than merely theorising, the micro credit people have gone about transforming the lives of people in a positive manner. The left wing theorists must now demonstrate that micro loans are actually bad, and will result in increased poverty. They have a lot of work in their hands.

Muhammad Yunus and Bangladeshi politics

It appears that the vicious political atmosphere in Bangladesh may be impacting the performance of Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank in the days to come.

Yunus has, over the last three decades, stayed away from politics. Bangladesh has had a very difficult political set up so far. When it was part of Pakistan, the region remained underdeveloped. After 1971 war of independence, Bangladesh's father of the nation Mujibur Rehman could not solve the problems or set the tone for progress for the country. He was assassinated in a military putsch. Whoever was the instigator of the putsch, the real power subsequently descended on Major General Zia-ur-Rahman. Zia-ur-Rahman himself was later murdered in a failed coup, which subsequently resulted in another period of military rule by General Ershad. Ershad was later overthrown by popular revolt, which resulted in reinstating of democracy from 1990 onwards.

However the period of democracy has been quite traumatic as well. Mujibur Rehman's daughter Sheikh Hasina (Awami League) and Zia-ur Rahman's wife Begum Khaleda Zia (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) run the two main parties. Khaleda Zia won her first term in 1991, lost power to Sheikh Hasina in 1996 but recaptured power in 2001. The elections are coming up again now in 2006.

These two parties fight pitched roadside battles. It is common to have country made bombs thrown on opposition rallies. Vengeful ruling party throws the opposition leaders (most of them ex-ministers) in jail on trivial charges. Corruption is rampant. Around the election time, at least few thousand people are killed in violence.

There is a constitutional tradition that when elections draw near, a neutral person is brought in to manage the country and oversee the elections. This change-over process is to happen on October 28th, but the opposition Awami League is not confident of the designated neutral person. They believe the upcoming elections may be rigged, and are threatening to boycott the elections. This has caused a great amount of instability now in the country.

All of this is frustrating to the development-minded people, including Muhammad Yunus.

Yunus had learnt to live with the military rulers. Grameen experiment was going on with the help of Government owned banks during Maj. General Zia's time. It was during General Ershad's period that Grameen Bank was incorporated with the Government holding 60% equity and 40% with the customers of the Bank. Then, through a series of clever maneuvering, Grameen has become 6% owned by Govt. and 94% with the customers.

While Yunus kept quiet during the military rule, with his growing stature and mounting frustration, he is critical of the two leaders. Reported in The New York Times:
"There's no ideological fight between them," Mr. Yunus said of the leaders in an interview here this week. "They go back to what your husband did, what your father did. They have to fight because they came into politics because of their legacy. There's no substance in the politics.
In a country like Bangladesh, that is a very strong reaction. Though true, neither leader will take this lightly. Sheikh Hasina hates Khaleda Zia's husband Major General Zia because Zia exhonerated a lot of people suspected of involved in killing Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. Some may even go so far as to say Zia himself was involved in Mujib's assassination. Khaleda Zia responds back with her own hate of Sheikh Hasina.

This kind of family feud spilling into the administration of country is not good. Such a state of affairs will frustrate any development-oriented person. Frustrated by all this, Yunus has apparently hinted starting a political party himself.

Whether that is good news for Bangladesh or not, it is bad news for Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. They will both come together to cut Yunus to size. They will realise that Yunus draws his power from Grameen Bank and its millions of members - that is millions of votes. So the politicians will work towards destroying Grameen Bank. Clinging to power is far more important for them than the development of their country.

The Nobel prize has probably made Yunus stronger and bolder. But he has to now constantly watch his back.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bangladesh Finance Minister criticises Yunus

This had to happen. Politicians do not like non-politicians becming larger than life. The Daily Star of Bangladesh reports that the minister for Finance and Planning Saifur Rahman has criticised Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner and his scheme of microcredit with some choice words:
  1. ... true development of the country will be achieved through establishing large-scale industries and modernising agriculture, not by running microcredit programmes.
  2. ... the people of Sylhet region demonstrated against the Grameen Bank during the previous term of the BNP government and he (Saifur) had to go to the spot himself to sort the situation out.
  3. ... the current government has distributed more microcredit loans than the Grameen Bank.
  4. ... none was able to relieve themselves of poverty with the help of microcredit only and they failed to become self-reliant.
  5. ... Yunus was able to win the Nobel Peace Prize only because he has good relations with former US president Bill Clinton and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who helped Yunus in this regard.
But we get to the bottom of the string of accusations, because apparently Yunus has said that he is likely to start a political party. I hope Yunus stays away from the political mess, because he has to do much more in the microfinance industry, and he is the most visible face championing micro credit.

Manmohan Singh on credit and agriculture

From The Hindu

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that Indian agriculture is in deep trouble, there is a huge rural-urban divide and rural farmers are suffering from four deficits: (1) public investment and credit (2) infrastructure (3) market economy (4) knowledge. He said:
We cannot deny that there is a crisis in agriculture in many regions of the country ... In many parts of the country, agriculture is being carried out in adverse conditions ... There are large tracts where farmers seem to be in acute distress. In many other parts, agriculture is seeing a major transformation and farmers in these parts are reaping the benefits of technology, irrigation, better infrastructure, improved marketing facilities and advanced risk management strategies. It is this duality that we need to tackle.
The Prime Minister further ruminated:
Answers must be found to questions such as: do the farmers need a lower rate of interest or reliable access to credit at reasonable rates? Is our existing institutional framework adequate for meeting the requirements of our farmers who are a diverse lot? Do we need to create new institutional structures such as self-help groups and micro-finance institutions to provide improved and reliable access to credit? Or do we need to bring in money lenders under some form of regulation?
It is unclear to me where micro-finance institutions or self-help groups come into the picture here. The microcredit amounts are considerably smaller than what land owning farmers need. Farmers across the country have been borrowing money from (1) Nationalised banks (2) Agriculturual co-operative banks managed by State Governments (3) Private Money-lenders.

Agricultural co-operative banks are politicised institutions where writing-off loans is quite common. The recently elected Tamil Nadu state government wrote off close to Rs. 7,000 crores of agriculture loans, most of the money to well-off land owners and even fresh loans made just a few months back to buy tractors. Nationalised banks have not indulged in loan write-offs in the recent times. Private money-lenders on the other hand charge exhorbitant interest.

Indian agriculture is in distress because of lack of market economy. The state governments and Food Corporation of India are the major buyers, and the governments fix the price for the staple food. When the governments allow private players to buy the produce, the farmers invariably get better price. But the government cannot allow this to happen since its food reserves have come to the lowest position in the last decade, forcing them to import wheat for the first time in several years. So this depresses the income farmers get. A few droughts here and there, few floods there and here and the farmers lose everything.

Farmers are traditionally male, in India. As such, the Yunus school of micro-credit won't lend to such males. Like Grameen, the micro-credit institutions can demand that the land be transferred in the name of the woman of the household, and then lend money to women. Farming does not generate monthly or weekly income. After 4-8 months of hard work, you get the money only after the harvest. In Tamil Nadu, several farmers were waiting several months for money from the state government after they had sold rice to the government. So the turn-around time could be more than an year. Such farmers cannot pay monthly or weekly installments on micro-credit payments.

Micro-credit survival is based on fortnightly or monthly micro collections. As such what the Indian farm sector needs is credit against produce, combined with insurance against drought and floods. The lending institution should team up with FCI or private players such as ITC/Reliance/Bharti etc. and insurance companies to lend money to the farmers. Through the four-way contract, the farmer agrees to sell his produce to FCI or private companies at a specific price (subject to quality) and the buyer pays the loans off to the lending institutions and pays excess money to the farmer. A portion of the money lent to the farmer goes to the insurance company. Insurance company will compensate the lender and the farmer in case of adverse impact on the produce.

Farmers need reliable credit, but not loan write-off. Farmers need better training, better access to market and Government help in better flood/drought management.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another skeptic reviews micro credit

Counter arguments are good. It helps you clarify your views better. So we welcome Daniel Davies, commenting in Guardian Unlimited, where he says "Microcredit is a good thing, but it is nowhere near a panacea for global poverty." The strap line may be similar to that of Walden Bello, but the arguments are somewhat different.

Davies says
The main effect of the microfinance revolution has been the rebranding of agricultural development banks as "Microlenders". This has happened because although a loan to buy a tractor or provide working capital for a harvest season isn't microcredit, calling it microcredit will bring in a lot more grant money. That's probably good news, because agricultural development banks usually do good work.
This is not true. True micro credit institutions do not give tractor loans. Tractor loans are in lakhs of rupees (or millions of rupees) - that is about USD 5,000-8,000. The micro credit amounts are rarely more than ten thousand or twenty thousand rupees (or takas), and mostly in thousands of Rs/Tk - which in dollar terms is USD 200-500 at best. Agricultural banks are not renamed as micro lenders. In places like India and Bangladesh, all agricultural banks are owned by the Government, and it is a known fact that the Government messes with the banks, gives loans to party sympathisers and keep writing off loans. In any case, most such loans are never paid back. Yunus, right through his autobiography, disapproves of the Governement owned agricultural banks and their practices.

If the agri banks rename themselves as micro lenders for getting better access to grants, that is someone else's problem. Aid agencies beware!

Back to Davies. He says micro credit cannot help the poorest, and says micro credit organizations themselves know this. Quite true. It can only help those who can repay the money back, because for the banks' own survival, they need to get the money back, to relend, and to pay for the administrative costs. Until Yunus (and a few others elsewhere) started micro lending institutions, this particular segment of poor got nothing. Yunus is not providing a solution for every poor person out there, but most poor. For solving the real bottom poor, Governments have to step in, even if it means there is a lot of corruption and wastage. Or, someone else may have to come up with even more interesting models.

Yunus has never said anywhere that microfinance is a replacement for development policies. Grameen Bank's impact is real for all of us to see, even if the impact is not what some of the western writers want it to be - that is conversion of Bangladesh into France. That will take perhaps another 200 years and Grameen has been there only for 30 years or so.

Davies gives a neat introduction to JK Galbraith's (least-known but best book) The Nature Of Mass Poverty. I will note that down to read it.

Philippines House Speaker to start a microlending bank

The Manila Bulletin says Philippines House Speaker Jose C. de Venecia Jr. is starting a microfinance bank patterned after Yunus’ multi-awarded Grameen Bank in Pangasinan.
De Venecia made the announcement as he urged President Arroyo and provincial business and political leaders to help build a national network of micro-finance banks as "weapons against poverty."

The Speaker said the First Dagupan Micro-finance Bank will be launched next month with him and more than 3,000 residents from Dagupan City and other areas in Pangasinan as stockholders.
This is probably the best Nobel prize given out, as more people are looking at debating issues on poverty, micro credit etc. They are not stopping with debates and discussions but are going ahead and doing something as well.

Nobel for Yunus Is Not a Defeat for Adam Smith

Andy Mukherjee writing for Bloomberg says "Nobel for Yunus Is Not a Defeat for Adam Smith". It is not very clear who said moderate success of micro credit is somehow equivalent to repudiation of Adam Smith's theories. Leaving the provocative title, the article is quite good and it explains why micro credit model is robust in certain countries.
Micro-credit is a coping device. It is a big help in countries where legal contracts with individual borrowers may not be worth the paper they are written on, where the judicial systems are slow and overburdened, where the poor have little legally acceptable collateral to offer, and where credit history is worthless because no one is recording or disseminating it.

In such a situation, as Yunus has so successfully demonstrated over the past three decades, creditor rights can be profitably protected by transferring the liability from individual borrowers to a group.
However, Mukherjee doesn't think group lending "is the best way".

Yunus had to come up with a working model for lending to the poor. Poor across the world tend to be mostly illiterate, because in most countries in the world, getting an education costs money. Even if education is free, food and other needs or not, so poor have to go to work as early in their lives as possible, rather than going to school. Poorly educated people invariably get low paying jobs and that is how poor remain poor throughout.

Poor can be given free or subsidised food, education, training and good job opportunities so that they come out of their current state. But this calls for lots of spending, very active Government intervention and sustained monitoring. In the absense of money and a functional Government (example: Bangladesh, India), the next best thing is to work bottom up and provide minimal credit to poor people, educate them of the need to pay that money back in small installments, and also provide them guidance, social values etc. Grameen Bank has done this and more. For example, Grameen teaches people to drink clean water and supplies them with Aluminium Sulphate tablets to purify the ground water. Diarrhea, which is a major killer in Bangladesh - more than TB or AIDS or any other (The Week, UK, Oct 16 issue) - does not impact the Grameen members as much.

Grameen teaches its women members family planning and use of contraceptive devices, dignity for women, transfer of property for women (only such families are given the housing loan), and general healthcare and discipline for women etc. In poor countries and poor families, women empowerment is the best way of providing nutrition for the children and education for the children. More of Grameen member's children go to school than the national average in Bangladesh. That generation is more likely to come out of property, faster.

All these benefits will not be available if, as Mukherjee says, countries take a relook at their "contract laws" and banks start lending only to individuals. Most western writers do not understand poverty, or ways of resolving poverty. They think if laws are framed whereby "contracts are respected" and "creditor rights" are firmly established.

The trouble is in looking at micro credit as purely businesses run by cold individuals. Yunus and a few others have to sell micro credit as "sustainable business" because otherwise, the scheme will be dismissed as dole by investors and lenders. Micro credit is a sustainable business, but it can be made a sustainable business only by organizations which are sympathetic to the poor and work towards uplifting the poor. After all, the poor are their customers, and in case of Grameen, the poor are also 94% shareholders of the company.

Asian countries have to work towards improving the laws and law enforcement. But that will not solve the problem of poor people. Micro credit and responsible social organizations that offer micro credit can at least go far in achieving poverty eradication and wealth creation amongst the currently poor.

Muhammad Yunus does not seem to be proposing anything against Adam Smith. He seems to have simply enhanced the theory to conditions prevalent in his country. Others can take the same model and tweak it to their needs.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A counterpoint from Walden Bello

Everyone is praising micro credit. Muhammad Yunus is the hero. Surely there must be dissenters? Walden Bello, whose blurb says "Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines and executive director of Focus on the Global South, Walden Bello was the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award -- also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize -- in 2003", dissents, but carefully and without openly trashing Yunus here. A friend forwarded this as email, and I replied to him disagreeing with Bello's views. The crux of Bello's argument is
In other words, microcredit is a great tool as a survival strategy, but it is not the key to development, which involves not only massive capital-intensive, state-directed investments to build industries but also an assault on the structures of inequality such as concentrated land ownership that systematically deprive the poor of resources to escape
poverty. Microcredit schemes end up coexisting with these entrenched structures, serving as a safety net for people excluded and marginalized by them, but not transforming them.
Good that Bello does not call microcredit as bourgoise invention created by counter-revolutionaries to keep the poor as poor, but opiated poor so that they don't storm the ramparts of rich and powerful.

"Massive capital-intensive, state-directed investments to build industries" will solve the problems of the poor? Did he mean "industries" or basic infrastructure? There is no doubt that in most developing countries, only the state has the ability to build massive infrastructure. They are expected to do that. But "industries"? Like bread making and soap making industries? Steel making behemoths? Telecom monoliths? This is simple, extreme left wing lunacy.

Bello thinks China has solved the problem of poor, better. However China thinks it has not solved its problem yet, and certainly not going to solve them by building big industries. Instead, it thinks it needs to do the following (from Xinhua, but also quoted widely in various news sources in the last few days):
  1. Equal opportunity of education should be guaranteed. The government should invest more in education and ensure equal distribution of the limited educational resources.
  2. The public service function of the government should be enhanced. The government should provide more public services and goods.
  3. The construction of social security system should be speeded up.
One can't fault China's reasoning. Only Bello's.

India may create legislation to start microcredit banks

Muhammad Yunus says he has talked to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the result may be that India may enact a legislation allowing creation of microcredit banks and a regulatory body that can regulate this sector.
He said if necessary India would have to create an independent regulatory body to monitor the micro-finance sector and "it will also perhaps bring in legislation for formation of a microcredit bank."
As of now, a microcredit organization can at best create a Non-banking Finance Corporation (called NBFC). The legislation governing banks are very different and benefits available to banks are not available for NBFCs. In fact, around the world, there aren't many that are in micro finance and notified as a bank. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a Chicago based small bank are probably the only ones, if I am not mistaken.

We must thank Muhammad Yunus for bringing this rather simple idea to Manmohan Singh's notice. One would have thought an accomplished economist such as Singh would have realised this all by himself by now.

There are laws passed in Indian Parliament in a hurry when it comes to saving their seats by the Indian lawmakers ("The Office of Profit bill") but they won't normally press the pedal on for things like micro credit. But since this is the Nobel year of micro credit, we may still see a draft bill presented over the next 12 months or so, and if we are lucky, the bill may get passed over the next three years or so. That is, if someone in RBI does not come up with strong opposition to such a move.

As to EU type economic union in SAARC countries, we are far away from it. Sri Lanka has a crumbling economy, Pakistan does not have a robust economy and a common market may not necessarly offer much to Nepal or Bangladesh in the medium term. First step will have to be heightened bilateral trade relationship and preferred investment opportunities within member countries.

More encomiums for Yunus

William Pesek, Bloomberg News columnist writes:
Finding a happy medium between profit and altruism will leave hundreds of millions of people -- if not billions -- better off. Hats off to the Nobel Committee for shining a spotlight where it's badly needed.

Praise for Yunus pouring in

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore writes about Yunus in The Gulf News:
Three cheers for the Nobel committee for awarding this year's Peace Prize to Mohammad Younus. The Bangladeshi economist won the prestigious award for his pioneering and successful idea of micro-credit that helped millions of his countrymen to avail of loans without any collateral.


Hernando De Soto, who should get the next Nobel Prize, is a Peruvian economist and his splendid work on why capitalism works in some countries and not others, offers another profound insight. Poor countries have enormous assets but lack capital. Those assets cannot be unlocked because of poor legal titles, assets cannot be bought, sold or borrowed against.
However, he also makes a mistake on statistics when he says "Mobile phones are growing at 1.5 million a month in India which now has more mobile phones than China". Indian mobile penetration growth rate is higher than that of China, but for sheer numbers, China is way ahead of India. India has a long way to reach China in mobile phone penetration. The average Chinese is more well off than the average Indian at this moment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jobra village and Chittagong City honour Nobel laureate Yunus

From The Daily Star
Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Muhammad Yunus was all ecstatic and full of emotion as he visited his birthplace Chittagong and Jobra village, now a familiar name across the globe, yesterday.

The whole Port City--from Engineers Institute to the economics department at Chittagong University to Jobra village where Prof Yunus' revolutionary concept of microcredit kicked off--was vibrant with people from all strata heartily greeting the Nobel laureate.

The scene was extraordinary in Jobra village in the afternoon as a few of the first borrowers of Grameen Bank loans thronged the Nabajug Tebhaga Khamar premises and accorded a hearty reception to the lone Nobel laureate of the country.

Prof Yunus said he has come first to Jobra after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to convey gratitude and honour on behalf of all Bangladeshis to the people of this great village.

"It is you who actually deserve the honour," he told the residents of Jobra village. "You did a wonderful act of honour for the whole country.

"I am very happy today to be here among you...I have come here to breathe fresh air of Jobra to my heart's content," the microcredit pioneer said.

Mohammad Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize

Mohammad Yunus and his creation Grameen Bank of Bangladesh have together won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006.

From Nobel Prize site

He is the first Bangladeshi to win the Nobel Prize.