Yunus’s Nobel Lecture (12/10/06)

Collage of Muhammad Yunus clockwise: Nobel diploma, photo by
Robert Pearce accompanying Sidney Sun Herald’s story of October 15, “Nobel Winner Donates Prize Money” and Yunus with loan holders of the  Grameen Bank taken by the  Grameen Bank Audio Visual Unit, 2006.

It’s Nobel banquet time.  Consider the menu, Queen Silvia of Sweden’s gown and then the speech by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank:  “Poverty is a Threat to Peace.”  I recommend reading the whole essay.  Here are some highlights:

World’s income distribution gives a very telling story. Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. …

He then spoke of the money diverted by spending on the war on terror after 9-11 and went on to speak of  the market economy:

 I am in favor of strengthening the freedom of the market. At the same time, I am very unhappy about the conceptual restrictions imposed on the players in the market. This originates from the assumption that entrepreneurs are one-dimensional human beings, who are dedicated to one mission in their business lives 3/4 to maximize profit. This interpretation of capitalism insulates the entrepreneurs from all political, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental dimensions of their lives. This was done perhaps as a reasonable simplification, but it stripped away the very essentials of human life.

Yunus spoke to the need for social entrepreneurism and his idea for  a separatel stock market where no dividends are taken  for investment in businesses whose goal is not maximizing profit, but the social good.  He also has this to say about globalization:

I support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaw will be thrown off the highway. In order to have a win-win globalization we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and traffic authority for this global highway. Rule of “strongest takes it all” must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong. Globalization must not become financial imperialism.

After the speech, there was a short interview with Yunus:

The one message that we are trying to promote all the time, that poverty in the world is an artificial creation. It doesn’t belong to human civilization, and we can change that, we can make people come out of poverty and have the real state of affairs. So the only thing we have to do is to redesign our institutions and policies, and there will be no people who will be suffering from poverty. So I would hope that this award will make this message heard many times, and in a kind of forceful way, so that people start believing that we can create a poverty-free world. That’s what I would like to do.

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