Thursday Bookshelf: We Can End Global Poverty

I know what you’re thinking. No way. That this vision could never really materialize into a reality. But, Nobel Winning Economist and Grameen Bank founder, Muhammad Yunnus as made that vision his ultimate goal in this life.  Yunnus’s ambitions do not end at eliminating poverty, rather they extend into addressing gender discrimination, health care access, failing education polices, environmental protections, and of course, extreme inequality.

Grameen BankProfessor Muhammad Yunnus is the founder and the managing director of the Grameen Bank which has been the global champion of microcredit- a method of banking where small loans are given to the poor, mostly women, and without collateral for the purpose of lifting them out of poverty via income generation through the loans.  In 2006, Yunnus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the  Nobel Peace Price for their intuitive and forward thinking work in the fields of economic and social development. The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted: “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty and across cultures and civilizations, Yunnus and the Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.”


Yunnus has received numerous awards and honors as result of his work with the Grameen Bank including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010. In 2008, he was rated number two in Foreign Policy magazine’s list of the “Top One Hundred Global Thinkers. He known is own as the “Banker To The Poor”, (also the name a previous book on the same topic). In short, it is Professor’s Yunnus’ life work to prove to the entire world, that the poor are credit-worthy and if given the opportunity, can lift themselves out of poverty.

For all of his work in the area of microcredit and economic development, his books “Banker To The Poor “Creating A World Without Poverty” are. this week’s entry into the TFS Bookshelf.

Banker To The Poor is more of an autobiography of Professor Yunnus and discusses the conception of his solutions: microcredit and micro-lending and how they’ve led to the highly successful Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.   He says he came up with the idea of these small microcredit loans in 1976 when he was a professor at Chittagong University in Southern Bangladesh. These loans were given to forty two women from the small village of Jobra near the university. The loans were for the equivalent of $27 ant couldn’t come at better time as, the women had been relying on local money-enders that were essentially loan sharks with ridiculous interest rates.

Creating a  World Without Poverty focuses its attention the concept of social business, which he defines as financially sustainable but non-dividend paying enterprises established to solve social and environmental problems all the while updating the reader on the amazing work of the Grameen Bank, discussing his thoughts and ideas on the potential technologies that can further help to alleviate and end poverty, and finally he adds commentary on international norms, the roles of nation states, and practice of governance.

Yunnu’s see’s a future were these enterprises, controlled and owned by shareholders, give loans to the poor with the investors getting their intitial investment back though any and all additional profits created by these enterprises go right back into the work. In the book, Yunnus uses the example of venture between his Grameen Bank and the French multinational food product company.  Yunnus argues the we can end poverty with these enterprises as their sources expand from just individuals to existing companies, charitable foundations, wealthy retirees, fortune seekers, NGOs/IGOs, world and state institutions, and yes, even nations and states here in the United States.

Naturally, Yunnus’s work is not a magic wand to solving all of the world’s problems. He even makes that point himself. But after reading these books, with our national (and yes, state) poverty rate, uninsured rate, reliance on minimum wage job, and our wide income disparities, I could help but think what if the Florida legislature or even Congress, rather than investing the further tax cuts for the top one percent of income earners,  investing in poor poor and working classes- giving them the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty? In 2013 Senator Jeff Clemens, (full disclosure: I worked for Jeff Clemens during the 2012 election cycle) authored and introduced, SB1274 that creates tax incentives for social purpose corporations that naturally, thanks to Republican opposition died in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Over the coming weeks months, I’ll be releasing some ideas and policies that fellow TFS Writer Scott Gaillard have been working on to do just that and hopefully start the debate on this topic and continue to bring forth new ideas that we can apply to Florida’s economic and social problems.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll pick up both books.




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