Interview with Muhammad Yunus, Gramin Bank – Bangladesh
NBR: You have been credited with inventing the microcredit movement more than 30 years ago. Why did you go in that direction?
Yunus: I had no idea that I would ever get involved with something like lending money to poor people, given the circumstances in which I was working in Bangladesh. I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation.
NBR: So what gave you the idea to give people tools?
Yunus: While I traveled around the country, I told myself, ‘As a person, forget about the tool box. As a human being, I can go out and be available to help another person.’ So that’s what I started doing. This was back in 1974. I saw how people suffered for a tiny amount of money. They had to borrow from the moneylender, and the moneylender took advantage of them, squeezed them in a way that all the benefits passed on to the moneylender and none remained for the borrowers. So I made a list of people who needed just a little bit of money. And when the list was complete, there were 42 names. The total amount of money they needed was $27. I was shocked. Here we were talking about economic development, about investing billions of dollars in various programs, and I could see it wasn’t billions of dollars people needed right away. They needed a tiny amount of money. This was in 1976.
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