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Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty Hardcover – June 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

It began with a simple $27 loan. After witnessing the cycle of poverty that kept many poor women enslaved to high-interest loan sharks in Bangladesh, Dr. Muhammad Yunus lent money to 42 women so they could purchase bamboo to make and sell stools. In a short time, the women were able to repay the loans while continuing to support themselves and their families. With that initial eye-opening success, the seeds of the Grameen Bank, and the concept of microcredit, were planted.

After earning a Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Yunus returned to Bangladesh to settle into a life as a professor. But a famine in 1974 ravaged the country, leading Dr. Yunus to alter his thinking and his life profoundly: "What good were all my complex theories when people were dying of starvation on the sidewalks and porches across from my lecture hall?.... Nothing in the economic theories I taught reflected the life around me." Armed with little more than a lofty dream to end the suffering around him, he started an experimental microcredit enterprise in 1977; by 1983 the Grameen Bank was officially formed.

The idea behind the Grameen Bank is ingeniously simple: extend credit to poor people and they will help themselves. This concept strikes at the root of poverty by specifically targeting the poorest of the poor, providing small loans (usually less than $300) to those unable to obtain credit from traditional banks. At Grameen, loans are administered to groups of five people, with only two receiving their money up front. As soon as these two make a few regular payments, loans are gradually extended to the rest of the group. In this way, the program builds a sense of community as well as individual self-reliance. Most of the Grameen Bank's loans are to women, and since its inception, there has been an astonishing loan repayment rate of over 98 percent.

Banker to the Poor is an inspiring memoir of the birth of microcredit, written in a conversational tone that makes it both moving and enjoyable to read. The Grameen Bank is now a $2.5 billion banking enterprise in Bangladesh, while the microcredit model has spread to over 50 countries worldwide, from the U.S. to Papua New Guinea, Norway to Nepal. Ever optimistic, Yunus travels the globe spreading the belief that poverty can be eliminated: "...the poor, once economically empowered, are the most determined fighters in the battle to solve the population problem; end illiteracy; and live healthier, better lives. When policy makers finally realize that the poor are their partners, rather than bystanders or enemies, we will progress much faster that we do today." Dr. Yunus's efforts prove that hope is a global currency. --Shawn Carkonen

From Library Journal

Bangladesh, a country the size of Florida with a population of over 120 million people, is the home of Grameen Bank, the inspiration of economist Yunus, Bangladesh-born and U.S.-trained. Instead of spending his life as a university economics professor, Yunus decided in the mid-1970s to develop a micro-lending program to help the poorest people of his country. Yunus based the program on his strong belief that the very poor do not need complicated training programs to improve their economic lot. They need money, in the form of loans. This program has empowered thousands of peopleAmany of them womenAand surprised experts in economic development who never believed that the very poor would find the initiative and ability to repay even the smallest ($25-$500) loans. Grameen ("of the village") Bank has developed into an internationally acclaimed and replicated method for assisting the impoverished in Malaysia, the Philippines, Nepal, and even the United States. Definitely recommended for larger public and academic libraries.AOlga B. Wise, Compaq Computers, Austin
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891620118
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891620119
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you know the story of Grameen Bank, and wanted to know more about the founder - I don't need to say anymore.
If you haven't heard of Grameen, prepare yourself to learn about a bank which has overturned the conventional wisdom about helping people who live in poverty.
Yunus' big idea can be put very simply: people who live on less than $1 per day (3 billion people) don't need to be tought how to feed themselves and survive - the very fact that they are alive is testament to their abilities.
His approach rests upon that faith in people's ability to help themselves, if given access to the very small amounts of loan capital they need to start a profitable venture - whether that is weaving cloth or repairing bicycles.
The road to reaching more than 2 million people in Bangladesh, and many other millions worldwide, wasn't smooth. What you get from reading this book is a sense that sometimes the 'homegrown' solution beats the 'imposed' ideas from the developed world.
A challenging book for liberals and conservatives alike!
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Zasloff on July 8, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Muhammed Yunus has worked tirelessly for the poorest of the poor. He has developed an enormously exciting new model for economic and social empowerment. He has expanded it to serve millions of people and give out billions of dollars in loans. His story is thrilling, even inspiring. How in the world can you criticize someone like that?

Well, here's how.

First and most importantly, you can scour through Banker to the Poor and not find anything concrete about whether the Grameen Bank and all of its allied institutions have actually reduced poverty.

In the middle of the book, Yunus says that he wants outside independent auditors to look at the outcomes for Grameen borrowers. I believe him, but the man has been in business for more than 30 years now; it would be nice to have SOME indicator of effectiveness. Moreover, when he discusses the "star" system, whereby individual Grameen branches apply for recognition for outstanding performance, he notes almost in passing that only 21 of more than 1,100 branches have even applied for the "brown star," which is awarded if 100% of the borrowers have escaped poverty. Maybe none of them even received it. Now, 100% is a very tall order and it's not the best indicator. But it is the ONLY one that Yunus offers in the entire book.

Think about the scale of Grameen: it has delivered more than $4 billion in loans since it was founded. That sounds impressive until you realize that Bangladesh has more than 120 million people, about 40% of the size of the United States. $4 billion isn't even a drop in the bucket on that scale.

And yes, Grameen borrowers have a superb record of repayment.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Hummingbird Green on August 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the more fascinating life histories I've read in a long time, Muhammad Yunus' autobiography enlightens more than entertains. And what enlightenment!
Born in 1940 in British-ruled India, Yunus recounts India's and his native East Pakistan's independence through the eyes of the seven-year-old he was. Replete with juvenile impressions of contemporary political and religious prejudices with their accompanying tensions, Yunus' account of independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent opened my eyes to a much different view of that history than I had ever read in adult-centric volumes.
The watershed event for Muhammad Yunus was Bangladesh's 1974 famine that killed thousands. As a faculty member of Chittagong University, he petitioned government to wake up and do something. Instead of waiting for a bureaucracy to emerge, though, he began to organize farming projects and sought other ways to alleviate suffering.
By 1976, Yunus had stumbled onto micro-lending. Realizing that local stool makers were not much more than slave laborers due their complete and total dependence on wholesalers for both daily credit for raw materials and a monopolistic market over which they had no price control, Yunus broke the cycle by lending 42 stoolmakers the total equivalent of US$27 from his own pocket.
From those unplanned and humble beginnings, the Grameen Bank was founded by an economics professor who had no intention of becoming a banker-much less a banker to the poor.
Today, Grameen Bank ("grameen" is an adjective meaning "village" or "rural" in the Bangla language) serves over two million micro-borrowers in nearly 40,000 Bangladeshi villages.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd J. Klapperich on August 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of one man who extracted himself from economic theory long enough to see poverty in human terms, to trust in human beings, to form them into self-help units, to express that "trust" in economic terms and watch the seeds of faith grow into an international garden of success. In this garden today, grow the solutions to the world's most pressing problems. Now it is up to the rest of us to harvest crop.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A book that makes you look at the world from the right perspective. It deals with major economic problems and provides solutions based on true experience. It has the clarity and simplicity that comes from having put the ideas into practice and having achieved results. Refreshing and inspiring in a world where its quite difficult to judge what is true.
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