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Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty Paperback – January 8, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"ÝYunus's ideas have already had a great impact on the Third World, and hearing his appeal for a poverty-free world from the source itself can be as stirring as that all-American myth of bootstrap success."

About the Author

Muhammad Yunus was born in 1940 in Chittagong, a seaport in Bangladesh. The third of fourteen children, five of whom died in infancy, he was educated at Dhaka University and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. In 1972 he became the head of the economics department at Chittagong University. He is the founder and managing director of the Grameen Bank.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Later Printing edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481983
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481988
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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In the 1970s Professor Mohammed Yunus had a great idea on how to help the poor of Bangladesh and he made it work. He invented micro-credit, or lending very small amounts to the poorest of the poor, without asking for collateral. This, rather than simple handouts, would help the poor become self-reliant enough so that they could lift themselves out of poverty. He concentrated on women. He relied on peer support to motivate repayment of the loans by making loans to one member of a group of women who would have access to credit only if the entire group had a good credit record (when a group started, they were assumed to have good credit). Professor Yunus's organization, the Grameen Bank, is a cooperative owned mostly by its members and boasts a repayment rate over 98%.

In the 30 years since Professor Yunus's first loan of 27 dollars, Grameen has now lent out billions to millions. It has liberated women in small villages, it has brought capitalist market mechanisms to the economic bottom 2% of the world population.

This first hand account by the American-educated Bangledeshi founder of Grameen Bank might not win any literary prize and it might end with a (I think) slightly naive vision of social work, but it effectively presents a simple story about a practical man who has made millions of the world's poorest people significantly better off.
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The story of the Grameen bank is an excellent example of how social change initiatives can be combined with government and private industry support to acheive a greater outcome than the organization could acheive by itself. Yunus provides an excellent chronicle of his bank's formation as well as explaining its principles. Highly recommended for anyone interested in social entrepreneurship or social change. The only shortcomings are: 1) as a finance person, I would like to have read more about the operational side of the banks relative to their commercial competitors - what specific factors enabled them to be so successful (other than the broad social factors he identifies)? 2) Need more information about how these types of programs can be applied to industrialized nations such as the US.
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Founded in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus in 1976, the Grameen Bank is one of the most successful attempts ever to employ capitalist principles to achieve social goals. By approaching poverty from a different tact, Grameen seeks to reconcile the inequalities inherent in capitalism by mobilizing the "informal sector" of society-the self-employed poor. By addressing the root cause of poverty (i.e. lack of access to capital) Yunus has succeeded where many others have failed. Often, well-intentioned governments fail to solve the issue of poverty because of "misguided development" policies and bloated bureaucracies. Similarly, many international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, have failed because their heavy-handed top-down approach excludes those most in need of aid. Yunus writes, "I have always believed that the elimination of poverty from the world is a matter of will" (248). Grameen succeeds where others fail because they appeal to the most downtrodden, the poorest of the poor-the bottom 50% of those already below the poverty line.

A precocious child and avid reader-especially of comicbooks-Yunus was one of fourteen children born to devout Muslim parents. The family lived on the second floor located above the jewelry store that his father owned and operated in Chittagong, the largest port-city in Bangladesh. His mother, despite her later mental illness, instilled a sense of charity early on in her son that would last a lifetime. While the seeds of the Grameen Bank were planted when Yunus was a child, they were certainly nurtured while studying under the tutelage of professor Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in America. Yunus left to attend Vanderbilt University as a Fulbright scholar in 1965 after opening a successful packaging business in Bangladesh.
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If you are interested in microfinance, this book is a prerequisite. Dr. Yunus gives a historical account of the rise of micro-credit and the Grameen Bank. Of course, he is also the biggest advocate of the program. Therefore, most of his arguments are pro-expansion of micro-credit. In spite of this, he manages to show a clear and compelling picture of the micro-finance industry. But, make sure you balance the information with other microfinance books that does not proselytize as much. A good example is "Beyond Micro-Credit" by Thomas Fisher.
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Muhammad Yunus was born in 1940, the third of fourteen children, to an extremely devout Muslim family in Chittagong, the largest port city in Bangladesh. After studies at Chittagong University, and then University of Colorado and Vanderbilt (where he earned his PhD in economics), Yunus returned to help nation-build in Bangladesh, which had declared its independence from Pakistan in 1971. The independence movement had taken its toll; three million people were dead and 10 million were refugees. In 1974, a famine struck.

As he tried to alleviate the broad and deep poverty in his homeland, Yunus came to "dread" his economics lectures. They were tragically far removed from the everyday lives of normal people. In a theme that would characterize much of the rest of his life, Yunus almost completely abandoned classical book learning in favor of listening to and learning directly from the extreme poor -- the millions of Bangladeshis living off two cents a day. In 1976 he loaned $27 to 42 villagers, and thus was born what eventually became the Grameen Bank (grameen means rural). As of the publication of this revised autobiography in 2003, Grameen and its many replicants had made $3.8 billion of micro-loans to 2.4 million families in over 100 countries. The borrowers themselves own 93% of the bank equity, 95% of the loan recipients are women, and the repayment rate on the loans is 98%. For all that, in 2006 Yunus and Grameen won the Nobel Peace Prize (not to mention more than two dozen honorary doctorates).

Yunus is an excellent writer and story-teller.
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