Last week, the name of the four economists, Jagdish Bhagwati, Amartya Sen, Manmohan Singh, and Muhammad Yunus of the subcontinent, appeared one way or the other in media. Jagdidh Bhagawati, the professor in Columbia University got in news as a probable candidate for the Nobel Prize for economy. He has been the best-known advocate of globalisation. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it this year too. Amartya Sen is another economist and already Nobel laureate. Manmohan Singh, the economist Prime Minister of India dazzled the luminaries at Cambridge University, his alma mater with humility and simplicity and proposed the breaking of barriers between the developed and developing for the sake of the millions of farmers in developing countries. He was conferred with the honorary degree of ‘Doctor of Law’ by the university at a special function. And then came the wonderful news of the Noble for peace going to Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus with his Grameen Bank was cited for the efforts to help ”create economic and social development from below” in Bangladesh. Their work advanced economic and social opportunities for the poor, particularly women. They have been instrumental in helping millions of poor people improve their standard of living by letting them borrow small sums to start businesses.
Yunus’ pathbreaking method of credit delivery to the poorest has emerged as one of the most effective tools to fight chronic poverty. Microfinance is the giving of very small amounts of credit and financial services and assistance to the poor to help them raise their income levels and living standards. A study by the World Bank found that 40% of the entire reduction in poverty in rural Bangladesh was directly attributable to microfinance. Yunus’ Grameen Bank lends about $30 million a month to 1.8 million needy borrowers.
”Poverty alleviation is peace,” Yunus told reporters at his home in Dhaka. Yunus, as reported would use part of his share of the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award money to create a company that would make low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor. The rest of his share would go towards setting up an eye hospital for the poor in Bangladesh. I was in Bangladesh many years ago. The rural Bangladesh, as I saw while moving out to different factories in the country that we were to study, presented a dismal story. Even the outskirt of Dacca presented the similar situation.
Yunus has certainly innovated a new way of alleviating the poverty. And as Ela Bhatt of Sewa fame said, “Yunus is an economist in action. The Nobel Peace Prize for Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank is also a recognition of the women of Bangladesh, the small savers, the small borrowers, the loan re-payers and their integrity and discipline.”
Sometimes, a query crops up in my mind. Who should among the four of these economists be rated at the top? Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen have remained professors and will be known for their contribution to academics. Jagdish Bhagwati may get Nobel next year. For many, Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India may certainly be at the top. But could he get his opportunities exploited to the best in the interest of the people of India? Couldn’t he do better by getting all his dream projects implemented better? Who failed him- his bureaucrats or his head of the party, who appointed him? Can’t Manmohan perform better in the rest of his tenure as the Prime Minister of India to get his Bharat Nirman implemented effectively in the time frame it promised?
I believe, the contribution of Yunus as economist for the people at the bottom of the pyramid of his country, takes him to the top among the four economists.
Read ‘What the Nobel Means for Microcredit’
Nobel Winner Yunus: Microcredit Missionary
Can Technology Eliminate Poverty?
Losing its lustre
Peace Prize to Pioneer of Loans to Poor No Bank Would Touch by By CELIA W. DUGGER
Excerpts From Nobel Peace Prize Citation
Nobel winner Yunus pledges to help end poverty
Nobel award gives impetus to poverty battle: Yunus