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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Moving & Motivating!
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...
Published on June 16, 1999

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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some substance, please
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...
Published on July 8, 2009 by Jonathan Zasloff


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Moving & Motivating!, June 16, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (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
3.0 out of 5 stars Some substance, please, July 8, 2009
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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. But they also paid back the brutally unfair loans that they got from rapacious middlemen before Yunus stepped it for precisely the reason that Yunus explains: they have no other choice. So we still don't know anything about outcomes.

This critique is necessary because Yunus makes some quite extravagant claims in the book, e.g. the government should get out of the business of social service, health care, and education provision altogether. Can the free market provide such things for the poor? Of course not, Yunus says: that's why he needed to start Grameen in the first place. He then proposes a rather hazy notion of "socially conscious entrepreneurs" that will fill the gap, and insists that this sector -- which really has yet to exist anywhere -- can do it. What structures will ensure this? How can the proper incentives be provided? How would these entrepreneurial ventures look any different from the traditional nonprofit sector? Yunus doesn't tell us.

In fact, although Banker to the Poor gives a decent enough overall narrative of Grameen and its founder, it tells us precious little about the model, how it works, and why it is successful. We get a few nuggets: one key innovation appears to be giving loans to small groups of borrowers, who essentially monitor each other. This seems to have been an ingenious idea. He does discuss how dedicated his staff is, and -- to his great credit -- he names many of the important staffers and how they contributed to the organization. But his account of why such talented people work for Grameen, how he is able to retain them, and whether such staff can be found in other places and at a sufficient scale, is not explained.

My suspicion got piqued when I realized that no one seems to have been able to replicate his model on the scale he has in Bangladesh -- or at least none that he discusses. He does talk about replications, but they seem to be small and not really making a dent.

And I confess to a certain amount of annoyance as to the style of the book: the intrepid advocate Yunus battles intransigent bureaucrats, lazy bankers, arrogant development agencies (who, like the World Bank, nevertheless have funded him lavishly since the early 90's). He even relates the exact words of the exact conversations. This tone is heightened by an overheated performance by Ray Porter in the unabridged audio edition.

This surfeit of heat over light really comes through when Yunus argues that credit should be a "human right." But he simultaneously says that Grameen only wants highly motivated and energized borrowers, who will work and commit to making their businesses become successful. There are lots of people like that, and lots of people NOT like that. What about those borrowers who are not as highly motivated and responsible? Do they have the right to credit, too? Yunus wants to end world poverty, and more power to him: but at the fundamental level, in this book he doesn't really seem to have thought through the most important implications of his argument.

If you know next to nothing about micro-finance, as I did before reading this book, it's worth it. Yunus seems to have done a great deal of good; smart, committed, effective people and organizations support him. It makes a good deal of sense and it's not as if anyone else has the magic bullet. It would just be nice to know exactly what he has done and how he has done it. I'm looking forward to reading his next book and finding out the substance, because Banker to the Poor certainly doesn't provide it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economics from the Bird's-Eye View to the Worm's-Eye View, August 4, 2001
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This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (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. It leads the way as a model for similar micro-lending movements in dozens of other countries, including the United States.
Professor Yunus' vision of eliminating poverty (defined as a situation where one cannot provide for his/her own basic needs) by 2050 is a challenge for our generation. Are we up to the task? I believe I know the answer. After reading Banker to the Poor, you can also know.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust in the poor enough to help them., August 11, 1999
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This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing information to a world full of disinformation, November 2, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A messiah for the poor, September 27, 2000
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This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Hardcover)
Mohd Yunus is a leading authority on micro-lending and poverty alleviation. The book chronicles a one man's struggle against fighting poverty against all odds. Very easy to read and focuses on the issues and events and not the individual. After reading this book I had to re-examine and change my existing misconceptions about poverty.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long March to a poverty-free world?, June 7, 2000
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Hardcover)
Professor Muhammed Yunus, with a combination of analytical clarity and moral indignation that is too rare among economists, embarked on a personal journey to stamp out poverty back in 1976. Amazingly, from that modest beginning of a $27 mini loan, his Grameen ("of the village") Bank has now distributed the equivalent of over one billion dollars to 2 million borrowers! And their repayment rate is above 98%. Provocatively, his scathing critiques of traditional economics will mark him as an innovator who belives in a "socially-consciousness-driven private sector". Summing up, if a "Long March" of 1,000 miles begins with the first step, then reading this book will surely be happy trails for the aspiring pioneers of the new collective economy of the 21st century.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frank, conversational autobiography, June 17, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Hardcover)
The simplicity and success of under-$100 lending turned Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Dhaka-based Grameen Bank, into a contemporary icon of hu-manitarian economics. He uses this autobiography, however, to step off the pedestal-not of his own construction-and tell his story in frank, conversational terms. "I never intended to become a moneylender. All I wanted to do was solve an immediate problem. Out of sheer frustration, I had questioned the most basic banking premise of collateral...." The question gave rise to Grameen Bank's conception of credit as a human right. Today, Grameen Bank is a multi-billion-dollar, multi-branched, international non-profit enterprise that has redefined the notion of development.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 Star Book in a 5 Star Rating System, June 20, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Hardcover)
This book is beyond superb. I would rate it the best book I've read in years, in every aspect: social justice, the guy's character, the flawless writing style (seems like a ghostwriter was employed), the whole works. Rather than just blab on and on here, which I'm tempted to do, let's just say, this is SUPERB. You want to go join the organization when you're not more than a few chapters into it. America's been slow to embrace his concepts, it sounds like, but we don't have to be. Enthralling story on every level. Wow.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Motivating and Well Presented, July 14, 2000
This review is from: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Hardcover)
I liked this book a lot. I had heard of micro-credit, but wanted to know what it was from its originator, Dr. Yunus. It is very informative about his struggles to get it started and rolling. What I liked best was that it was told like a story and it motivated me to do more research into Micro Credit.
What this is not is a how-to manual for implementing Micro-Credit programs. But it is still a great book!
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