(A Real Time Bangladesh Blog Report, March 2011)
The recent dramatized ouster of Dr. Yunus from Grameen Bank- has stirred quite a bit of media storm about the Nobel Lauriat founder and the Bank. Many articles- naturally mix personal issues concerning the founder with the issues of microcredit. A key question is- Does microcredit help the poor of Bangladesh? Indeed, there are also assertions that it hurts!
Fate and future of millions of poor in Bangladesh depends on the microcredit programs. These are no simple issues.
If you have not heard it already, here is a report published in various places on the recent condition of the very village of Sufia.- She was one of the very first borrower with which the concept of microcredit begun and was made a poster lady for Grameen concept. A visit to her village reveals:
What about Sufia Begum herself? It reports:“.. most of the borrowers [in Jobra village], who took money from Dr. Yunus, gradually turned poor to poorest as they were compelled to pay regular interests. In Jobra village alone, a large number of villagers have already been turned into pauper by Dr. Yunus and his Grameen Bank”.
“..on investigation, it was found that, Sufia Begum died in 1998 [2008?] due to extreme poverty and local people had to collect donations for her funeral and burial. One of her grand daughters died few years back due to poverty”
However, there are mind boggling reports in the other end of the spectrum. An AP article from India also published last week posits a conspiracy against world’s poor:
Remarkable growth [of microcredit programs] has prompted a backlash from vested political interests.
"The poor is a constituency politicians see as their own turf," said Alok Prasad, chief executive of India's Microfinance Institutions Network,.. "Anything which leads to greater empowerment of the poor makes them insecure."
In Bangladesh, the government order dismissing Yunus — which he is now fighting in court — is widely seen as retribution for his 2007 attempt to form his own political party.
"It is showing the government its own inadequacy," Misra said. "That's a big challenge for the politicians. Politicians feel poverty-lending should be in the government's name."
Now bdnews24.com reports in an email obtained by bdnews24.com, Sajeeb A Wazed, son of prime minister Shaikh Hasina, also an adviser to her, also has weighed in. He reportedly has said:
“.. despite the hype, there is no evidence that microcredit has, in fact, reduced the rolls of he poor in Bangladesh... Grameen Bank has been in the microcredit business for 30 years, yet Bangladesh remains one of the poorest countries in the world.".
Mr. Wazed also states:
"..Grameen was at the time a non-profit organisation and paid no taxes. What is clear is that this transfer is completely illegal and constitutes a criminal offence of "conversion" under Bangladesh law.”
The email lists 10+ specific 'criminal activities' by the Bank. If these are not false there is no reason for government not to file charges? Is it quite likely now criminal charges may be forthcoming against Dr. Yunus and Bank officials?However, before taking a stance, it is possibly best to do some homework. A vast number of quite serious works has been undertaken by dedicated researchers. Many have spent considerable time and intellect on it.
This Real Time Blog Article summarizes few. One of the most serious is the ‘Khandker Study’- possibly the most cited survey ever on the topic- titled Fighting Poverty With Microcredit: Experience in Bangladesh. This was authored by Shahidur Rahman Khandker.
This is a 100+ page paper. Most other subsequent studies use this as the foundation. The article also highlights key point raised by other researchers who have closely studies analyzed the microcredit programs worldwide- adding further depth to the understanding. It also includes lead critiques. Indeed just another extensive survey was released just like week (January, 2011) by Sajjad Zahir. Find out what data says- if indeed Read this to find out if microcredit works?
Also be aware of misinformation. Some of the articles- even cannot make their basic facts right. Read this blog - More on Grameen Circus to learn more about few such.
Thy did not twist it upside down...
Here is my fate- only possession I own!
Care to read how will I grow up?