Vol. 5 Num 849 Sat. October 14, 2006  

Grameen Bank helps 38 lakh break out of poverty line

Around 66.01 lakh people, 96 percent of them are women, have so far received Grameen Bank microcredit, contributing to poverty reduction and women empowerment in Bangladesh.

According to the latest data available from Bangladesh Economic Review, around 58 percent or some 38 lakh of the total loan recipients have been able to break out of poverty line until February 2006.

The Grameen Bank, which started its journey in 1976 as a pilot project, aimed to bring financial services to the poor, particularly women and the poorest, to help them fight poverty, stay profitable and financially sound.

Grameen Bank started with the belief that credit should be accepted as a human right, and built a system where one who does not possess anything gets the highest priority in getting a loan.

Grameen Bank and its founder Professor Muhammad Yunus yesterday received the highest recognition when they won this year's the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Microcredit is one such means," the Nobel Committee said in its citation.

Grameen Bank works to raise the status of poor women in their families by giving them ownership of assets. It makes sure that the ownership of the houses built with Grameen Bank loans remain with the borrowers, the women.

The bank of the poor started its operations from a remote village of Zobra, 26 kilometres from Chittagong city. The bank's operation now spreads over 71 thousand villages across the country with 2,226 branches, according to the bank's website.

The bank has so far distributed Tk 29,000 crore loan with a 98.45 percent recovery rate, setting an example of unique success in banking without collateral requirement.

Professor Yunus, while teaching economics at Chittagong University, conceived the idea of introducing microcredit.

Grameen Bank has changed the conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity.

At Grameen Bank, credit is a cost effective weapon to fight poverty and it serves as a catalyst in the over all development of socio-economic conditions of the poor who have been kept outside the banking facilities on the grounds that they are poor and hence not bankable.

Professor Yunus reasoned that if financial resources can be made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are reasonable, the poor can create the biggest development wonder.

Repayment of Grameen loans is also made very easy by splitting the loan amount in tiny weekly instalments.

Grameen Bank methodology is almost the reverse of the conventional banking methodology. Conventional banking is based on the principle that the more you have, the more you can get. In other words, if you have little or nothing, you get nothing. As a result, more than half the population of the world is deprived of the financial services of the conventional banks. Conventional banking is based on collateral, Grameen system is collateral- free.

Grameen methodology is not based on assessing the material possession of a person, it is based on the potential of a person.

Grameen Bank branches are located in rural areas, unlike the branches of conventional banks, which try to locate themselves as close as possible to the business districts and urban centres.

First principle of Grameen banking is that clients should not go to the bank, it is the bank which should go to the people instead. Doing business this way means a lot of work for the bank, but it is a lot convenient for the borrowers.

Grameen system pays a lot of attention to monitoring the education of the children, housing, sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Grameen system helps the borrowers to build their own pension funds, and other types of savings.

In Grameen Bank even a beggar gets special attention. A beggar comes under a campaign from Grameen Bank, which is designed to persuade a beggar to join Grameen programme.

Grameen system encourages the borrowers to adopt some goals in social, educational and health areas. These are knows as "Sixteen Decisions" -, which include no dowry, education for children, sanitary latrine, planting trees, eating vegetables to combat night-blindness among children, and arranging clean drinking water.