New Login   

Micro-finance at Centre-stage

Prabal Roy Chowdhury

By Muhammad Yunus with Alan Jolis
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2007, pp. 302, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

This is the autobiography of Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and the creator of the Grameen Bank, the micro-finance institution that revolutionized lending to the poor. Naturally, perhaps, the book focuses on the Grameen Bank and how it came into being, ignoring, some may cavil, more personal aspects of Professor Yunus’s life. Thus one of the interests in reading this book lies in trying to trace how Muhammad Yunus develops into the man who spearheaded the micro-finance movement. What is the Grameen Bank all about? Very briefly, it is about lending to the poor (the poorest, Profesor Yunus would insist). It is driven by the belief that the poor are critically constrained by their lack of access to capital. Because of various reasons, e.g. lack of assets, lack of a credit history, lack of education, etc., they cannot access the formal credit market. Thus there is market failure, leaving the poor at the mercy of the village moneylender. With access to credit though, the poor are creative enough to generate a steady stream of income, may be not a large income, but enough to make a difference, perhaps enough to eventually get them out of poverty. The Grameen bank is all about having faith in this endless creativity of the poor, and creating a market mechanism that can, even in the absence of collateral and credit-histories, deliver this very small amount of setup capital to the poor (usually women).   Today the Grameen Bank is one of the leading micro-finance organizations in the world, touching millions of lives. Further, the Grameen Bank has spawned hundreds of replicators, working all over the world. The micro-finance movement as a whole, for example, reached 92.3 million clients in 2004. Equally importantly, the success of the Grameen Bank has put micro-finance in the center-stage of the fight against poverty. This growing consciousness regarding the importance of micro-finance is reflected in the award of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Professor Yunus, as well as in declaring 2005 as the international year for micro-credit.   The book starts with Professor Yunus’s experiences in Jobra, the village adjoining Chittagong University where Professor Yunus started his professional career. Even while he was absorbed in his usual professional activities, teaching and research, his experiences in Jobra convinced him that lack of credit is one of the critical factors leading to poverty. His initial experiences with lending small amounts ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.