Worthy of Credit
Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Laureate, has had many a creditworthy mention. Starting with 42 families and 27 dollars of his own in 1976 he built a formidable institution, the Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh.
I have been reading his book - Creating a World Without Poverty.
A world without poverty; a not inconsiderable ambition as John Major might have said. However, over the last 35 years Muhammad has made a significant contribution and is for many the inspiration for microfinance as an ethical social enterprise. There are some real gems in the book. I suspect they are much used and polished but one which seems apposite now is given on page 49:-
In the past, financial institutions always asked themselves,
"Are the poor credit-worthy?" and always answered no.......
I reversed the question: "Are the banks people-worthy?"
If banks are not people-worthy, what can we do? Yunus started his own bank and I am sure you could argue about lots that he has done and how it has been done but emphatically he has done something positive and lasting to attack systemic poverty. There is a fascinating video at NESTA where he talks about the origins of his work and the current problems in the system.
Microfinance has been around for a long time, at least since 1300. The chit funds in India and tontines in west Africa are examples and there are later examples of family and small community saving and lending. It is only in the last 150 years that such systems have taken on organisational and legal forms that have enabled them to grow and deliver services for their members. Clearly, the problems faced by communities in East Anglia are not the same, certainly not on the same scale, as those in Bangladesh. However, at Foundation East we have created something that is making a difference. We believe that our clients are worthy of credit and we welcome new members and their involvement in the business of making that difference.
Jim Murray, Member