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Friday, November 9, 2012

Ride out the gloom

Social businesses plan to create 22.14m jobs around the world by 2015

THE HEARTBEAT: Queen Sofia of Spain, right, and Prof Muhammad Yunus, left, beat drums with a group of artists who played an African drumming ensemble to open the Global Social Business Summit at the Austria Centre in Vienna yesterday. Photo: Nasir Ali Mamun

Social business advocates gathered in Vienna yesterday to find ways to solve ills in capitalism that eliminated millions of jobs around the world.

As the developed world is yet to recover from the deep financial crisis, news of gloom is still spreading. Some European nations, including Greece and Spain, are the worst of all in terms of employment.

Around 50 million jobs are still missing compared to the situation that existed before the financial crisis, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Here comes social business with a promise -- to create 22.14 million jobs around the world by 2015. Social businesses have so far created 19.7 million jobs the world over, according to a tally by the organisers of the three-day Global Social Business Summit that opened in the Austrian capital yesterday.

The young population is the worst sufferer in the financial crisis, as many governments, especially in advanced economies, have shifted their priority to a mix of fiscal austerity and tough labour market reforms.

"We don't deserve these problems. We don't deserve this doom and gloom. We don't deserve this hopelessness," said Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus at the summit at the Austria Centre, where more than 600 people from different parts of the world gathered to share ideas and build a network.

"People who are unemployed don't deserve this. There is nothing wrong with their ability. There is something wrong with the system."

"But we have a wonderful determination to create our own space to turn around from this crisis," he said.

Yunus, who promotes social business as a sustainable solution to the social problems that have plagued mankind, is a firm believer in the power of creativity and innovation.

"We have enough creative power. If we put them all together against all the world's problems, creative power will be the winner."

For him, the creative power means human strength to restructure the economic system that traps people in poverty. Here he calls upon the youth to redesign the system. "Can we do something to undo the system?"

"Today, we are raising our voice that nobody suffers from the indignity of poverty anymore. Each one of us has the power and we want to combine those powers to overcome this problem," Yunus said.

Yunus's longtime friend Queen Sofia of Spain inaugurated the summit as the chief guest. Queen Sofia comes from a country which is saddled with the industrialised world's highest jobless rate. Spanish workers -- 16 to 24 years old -- face an astronomical 53.3 percent unemployment rate, according to the nation's statistical agency.

Despite all the bad news looming on the horizon, Yunus is not losing hope. He pins hopes on the power of the youth, technology and innovation.

"The world is changing very fast. And we want to take advantage of that speed; speed not in the direction of destruction, not in the direction of hopelessness; but speed to build a new structure which will give us a new ability to let the world rise," he said.

Yunus led a 32-member delegation from Bangladesh to the summit, with each of them getting an opportunity to introduce himself or herself on stage to the rest of the audience amid loud cheers.

Companies like Danone, Intel Corporation, SAP, Veolia Water, Uniqlo, Renault, McCain and Brizal Foods joined the summit to share their expertise and progress in developing innovative technology solutions within a social business framework.

The social business summit, now in its fourth year, is being organised by Grameen Creative Lab of Germany and Yunus Centre under the leadership of Yunus.

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Dr Yunus is wrong. The free market (Capitalism) could not have caused the crisis because the free market did not exist - we had a heavily-controlled, heavily-distorted market. The question that needs to be asked is: what in our mixed economy caused the crisis? The free elements left in the economy or the government controls? Many like, Dr Yunus, are drawn to answers that place the blame on the free elements, above all greedy businessmen who allegedly pursued their self-interest through fraud, exploitation, and reckless risk-taking. But genuine self-interest does not encourage fraud, exploitation, or recklessness. The problem was not that businessmen were greedy: it's that government intervention made it seem profitable to act in ways that in hindsight often turned out to be destructive. If you take out the non-free elements of the market the financial crisis could not possibly have occurred.

: Scarlet Pimpernel





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