Peace Prize Winner See Every Cent as a Seed 和平獎得主看每一文錢像粒種籽
2006/10/21 | 作者:
  Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh's "Banker to the Poor" who provided loans to help millions of people fight poverty by starting businesses, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yunus, who shared in the $1.4-million prize with the Grameen Bank he founded 30 years ago, pioneered the concept of microcredit. It allows the very poor, who don't qualify for traditional loans, to borrow as little as a few dollars without collateral. The bank's shareholders are the impoverished people it supports.

Yunus, 66, and Grameen Bank were honored for "their efforts to create economic and social development from below," the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in Oslo.

As Bangladesh celebrated, Yunus said in Dhaka, the capital, that he wanted "to work to create some more new things in the world" and would use the award money to start a company to produce cheap, nutritional food for the poor and to set up an eye hospital for the impoverished.

He said winning made him "feel more encouraged" about developing other "poverty alleviation projects", and he expressed hope that "many countries will follow us" with similar programs.

The Nobel committee said that "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty.  Microcredit is one such means," it said.

The prize shines a light on a form of so-called social capitalism that has gained currency in recent years, propelled by high-profile supporters such as former President Clinton, rock star Bono and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Gates' foundation has given more than $40 million to programs designed to provide loans, insurance and other types of financial assistance to the world's poorest people, including a $1.5-million grant to Yunus' Grameen Foundation.

Across the globe, more than 92 million poor people, most of them women, have taken loans as small as $30 and worked their way out of the most dire poverty, said the organizers of the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

Yunus, who was nominated for the peace prize at least twice before, is the first Nobel winner from Bangladesh, a country of 147 million. His award is a rare bright spot in a country plagued by terrorism, floods and storms.

Yunus received his PhD in economics in 1969 from Nashville's Vanderbilt University, where he was a Fulbright scholar. He became an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University later that year before returning to Bangladesh, where he joined the economics faculty at Chittagong University.

Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, suffered a devastating drought and famine in 1974 that, by some estimates, killed more than 1 million people. While trying to help starving villagers, Yunus met a 21-year-old woman named Sufia Begum, who was burdened by a tiny yet crushing debt, Yunus recalled in his autobiography, "Banker to the Poor."

Begum, who had to borrow money to buy bamboo to make stools, received about 25 cents a day from the lenders. After repaying her debt in stools, she was left with 2 cents a day, barely enough to feed herself. To break the grinding cycle of debt and poverty, Yunus lent a total of $27 to Begum and more than 40 of her neighbors in the village of Joba.

He allowed them to pay him back over the next year as their businesses began to produce more stable profits.

He tried to persuade a local banker to lend more money to the villagers, but he refused, insisting they didn't qualify for credit. So Yunus started his own bank to help the poorest of the poor lift themselves up.

Three decades later, Grameen Bank has more than 6.6 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women. It has 2,226 branches and provides services in 71,371 villages in Bangladesh.

In 2003, Yunus brought the microcredit revolution to the streets of Bangladesh to support more than 50,000 beggars.

They receive interest-free loans of about $9 each to buy bread, candy, toys and other items to supplement their begging. Their payments usually are a few cents a week.

"Every single individual on Earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life," the Nobel committee said. "Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development."

Grameen Bank 鄉村銀行(孟加拉文)
microcredit 微型貸款、微額貸款
collateral 抵押擔保品
shareholders 股東
poverty alleviation 減貧
social capitalism 社會資本主義
gained currency 流傳甚廣
high-profile 高姿態、倍受矚目
Fulbright scholar傅爾布萊特學者