Meltdown Not the Only Crisis in the World

Linked with Mohammad Yunus – Bangladesh.

Published on IPS, Catherine Makino (IPS) Interviewing MD. YUNUS, March 20, 2009.

IPS: How are the poorer countries going to cope with the long economic recession?
Muhammad Yunus: They don’t have any control over the situation because they are the victims. We need to urge the world to fix the mess by using G-20, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But there isn’t any easy solution …

… IPS: What are the other crises and when did they begin?
MY: In 2008 the financial crisis began, but before it began there was another crisis which was making headlines all over and creating terror in many people’s minds — food crisis. The food crisis didn’t disappear, it was simply overshadowed and it could get worse. And 2008 was the year when the oil crisis shot through the roof and that crisis hasn’t disappeared either. They’re just keeping their heads down, and at the next opportune moment it can come back again. There’s also global warming and it’s getting worse …

… IPS: How has Grameen Bank’s programme of microcredit been affected by the crisis?
MY: We haven’t been touched by the financial crisis. Big banks have floundered, but we haven’t. Today we have eight million borrowers who take out 100 million US dollars each month, paying back 99 percent of the time. Our model can go all over the world, including developed countries. In New York City, Grameen America lends about 2,200 dollars to women.
We’re also talking to China and India. There are a lot of migrant workers in China who are losing their jobs. Beijing is very interested social business and India wants to get started.

IPS: How would you change the financial system?
MY: I suggest the economic system be totally redesigned. It worked for big business and rich people, but it didn’t work for two-thirds of the world because they were excluded from it. Nobody will get through the cracks in the new system. The financial system should be rooted to the ground, not making a fantasy economy built with castles in the sky which was the root cause of these problems.
Today’s business is profit making and we are human beings, not robbers. Presently business is based on selfishness, which caused the crisis, but we are also selfless human beings.
The new system should be inclusive of two-thirds of the world. For example, most people in the U.S. cannot even get a bank loan; they have to go through payday to get loans. Payday loans charge 100 to 500 percent interest rates. This is the failure of the banking system. Everybody should be entitled to a loan. Grameen even loans to beggars, who will buy fruit or candy and sell it.

IPS: Your company is involved in social business.
MY: The common principle of social business is a company created to help a social problem. Grameen Danone has used social business to address malnutrition in Bangladesh. We produce yogurt with all the micronutrients mixed in and sell it to malnourished children, so they become healthy. This company is trying to solve the malnutrition of children by business, not charity.

IPS: What other joint ventures and multinationals are you working with?
MY: We have now developed social business along with multinationals to appeal to communities to convince people we are human beings and not robbers. We have Bangladesh Intel (which is NASDAQ, Internet technology for rural towns), Verolia Water (creates clean water in Bangladesh) INTC, Groups Dabibe (yogurt to help fight malnutrition for children) and we are talking to Volkswagen, Adidas and Alliance on new projects. (full interview text).

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