Vol. 5 Num 1074 Sat. June 09, 2007  
Front Page

Yunus criticises G8's Africa aid package

Nobel Peace laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus yesterday said the G8's pledge to give Africa 60 billion dollars to fight AIDS and malaria was not the answer to the continent's battle with disease.

Dr Yunus said rich nations should aim to help Africa fight poverty and enable countries to improve their under-funded health care systems.

Aid handouts would simply treat the symptoms of the continent's health crisis and were not guaranteed to reach those who needed the money, he said in Cologne in southwestern Germany.

Dr Yunus won the 2006 Nobel peace prize for helping millions escape poverty through micro-credit financing projects, which enable people without collateral or steady income to get small loans.

He reiterated a call to expand micro-credit projects in Africa, saying "even beggars are credit-worthy people."

The Group of Eight industrial powers said yesterday at their summit in Heiligendamm in northeastern Germany that they would give 60 billion dollars (45 billion euros) to fight AIDS, as well as malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases in Africa.

Activist groups expressed disappointment at the new package, saying it fell far short of what was needed to help some 40 million Africans suffering from HIV/AIDS.

UNB in Dhaka adds: The prime minister of Thuringen state of Germany has sought Yunus' advice on state policy concerning introduction of a welfare programme promoted by some leading economists.

During a meeting convened by Prime Minister Dieter Althaus on June 6, Prof Yunus discussed the proposed policy of guaranteed basic income for the state of Thuringen with Prof Gotz Werner of Karlsruhe University and Prof Suplicy of Sao Paulo University, Brazil.

Gotz and Suplicy, both proponents of guaranteed basic income, have been working with the government of Thuringen for adopting this policy for the state, according to a delayed message received in Dhaka yesterday.

The founder of Grameen Bank argued that welfare systems are important for those in distress, but should be designed in a way that gives incentives for people to leave welfare.

He stated that traditional welfare kept people trapped, as if in a zoo. Yunus made it clear that he is against any kind of hand out programme, and advised that the issue for the state government should not be providing guaranteed basic income, rather it should be to consider a programme of guaranteed employment for the unemployed.

He proposed that the unemployed people should be given a choice between receiving guaranteed employment or micro-credit, or receiving both.

Later in the day, Prof Yunus was in University of Karlsruhe on invitation of the president of the university to give a public lecture on Grameen Bank and poverty.

He addressed an audience of 1,200 in the overflowing main auditorium of the Karlsruhe University, one of the top three educational institutions in Germany. Prof Yunus joined musicians Bono, Bob Geldof and German singer Herbert Gronemeyer.

The celebrities and activists participated in a press conference in which they called upon the G8 leaders to keep the promises that have been made by the industrialised nations to the poor countries.

At the press conference, Prof Yunus said the main message to the G8 leaders was to get the world back on track towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), making trade fair for developed countries, tackling climate change and eliminating nuclear weapons.

He emphasised that Bangladesh was on track on nearly all the MDGs, and that this showed that this was also possible for all poor countries, if G8 leaders made the right decisions.