Monday, October 16, 2006

Nobel Peace Prize 2006

Amidst all the hype and hoopla over the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, I came across the following piece by Taj Hashmi from Canada.

This award proves again the Goebbels-ian dictum that a lie uttered a thousand times becomes more credible than truth. This Nobel Peace Prize for Yunus and his bank, on a "Friday the 13th", is a slap in the face of those who have been trying to bring the Third World out of the strangling grip of the global hegemons -- the IMF, World Bank and others -- who hate to see the Third World slipping out of their grip to become self-reliant with good accountable governments, rule of law and respect for human rights.

The NGO business is the biggest business in the Third World. The IMF and World Bank, and most multi-nationals do not want too many Chinas, Taiwans, Malaysias, Thailand, Venezuelas, or even Singapores and South Koreas. They love countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan, who either buy arms, technology and expertise from the West, or do not build industrial infrastructure and good governance. There is NO substitute for good (honest and efficient) and accountable government. Why did the Asian dragons and tigers not adopt NGOs and microcredit for development - is the billion dollar question.

Having written this, I am happy for Bangladesh; this Nobel Prize (given for the wrong reason though) will bring a good name for the country, which is unfortunately only known for its poverty and corruption.

I pose the following questions to those who unnecessarily glorify Dr Yunus and his bank:

Do you know in most cases it is the husband / father/elder brother who controls the Grameen loan taken in the name of his wife/daughter/sister? Do you know the bank charges around 30% interest? Do you know that Grameen borrowers lend the borrowed money at 80% to 100% interest to fellow villagers? Do you know any other business where someone can still make a living by borrowing at 30% interest rate? Do you know in some villages (especially in Sylhet) men take three/four wives to get Grameen loan to run their lucrative money-lending business? Do you know that the poorest of the poor (as touted by Yunus, Clinton and others) are not eligible for Grameen loan as they cannot repay their loans in 52 instalments at 30% interest? Do you know that only middle peasants (with some lands or assets) are eligible for the credit?

Had there been such business, one would have borrowed thousands of dollars through credit cards to become rich overnight. I would like to recommend for the Nobel Peace Prize (why not the Economics prize?!) for all the credit card companies, as they charge around 18 -20% and nothing happens to the defaulters. There are many people in the lower income group who somehow survive through credit cards, by borrowing and paying off the debts. And we have no reason to celebrate the performance of Amex, Visa or Master Card for their "noble and humane" acts of "empowering the poor through credit". It is a "shame" that credit card companies who charge less than 20% interest on average are never considered for any prize anywhere in the world!

While Grameen defaulters have to part with their ornaments, tin sheds, goats or cattle or even utensils, many credit card defaulters simply get away with by paying nothing. After staying four or five years in the state of bankruptcy, they again become credit-worthy. All these assertions by me are buttressed by hard evidence from my field work and personal experience in Bangladesh.

Why do you think Monsanto, the giant US corporation, engaged in marketing genetically modified seeds (disastrous in the long run as farmers will have to buy the seeds before every sowing season), is a big promoter of microcredit? Why does Grameen Bank pay NO income tax to Bangladesh? Why did Grameen Phone ( a joint Bangladesh-Norway cell phone company) pay no income tax till this year? This is the largest cellphone company in Bangladesh, charging for local incoming calls as well. Is there a link between this award and Grameen Phone's (Dr Yunus's cellphone company) partnership with the Norweigian telephone company, Nortel? Do you know that Nortel has been siphoning off millions of dollars to Norway without paying any income tax to Bangladesh? And all this money laundering is done in the name of charity?

What a shame, what a disgrace!

Instead of jointly robbing Bangladesh through this Shylockian project of mega lending to rip off the poor in Bangladesh, in collaboration with the Grameen Bank, had the donor agencies (the real vultures in the production-growth-development arena) been really sincere in developing poor countries like Bangladesh, they would have helped to modernize the Bangladesh government run tele-communication system. But then Nortel, for obvious reasons, found it convenient to invest in the Grameen cellphone company in Bangladesh. And sadly, this happened through the active collaboration of Dr Muhammad Yunus.

Why did Dr Yunus try to introduce Monsanto seeds in Bangladesh? And finally he had to scrap this project due to opposition.

If micro-credit could alleviate poverty, why on earth do hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis go to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Singapore, borrowing hundreds of thousands of takas (two hundred thousand per head, on average) to work in menial jobs? If borrowing fifty or sixty dollars could alleviate poverty, why are they doing this? Are they stupid?

To read the discussion on Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank winning the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 go here, here and here.


nehavish said...

Is there a link to this piece please?

Yves said...

Thanks, Rama. I did not know about this. But the press recently told us that here in UK the rate of borrowing and indebtedness is higher than anywhere else in Europe. This is largely due to credit card companies and banks encouraging people to borrow more and more so that they can increase their spending to consume whatever the marketing people want them to buy. It is a trap for the young and vulnerable. Every day throught the letter box come invitations to borrow large sums.

rama said...

Thanks Yves. Neha, thanks for your visit. This is from an e-mail I received from a friend. You could make a link to my post. The next post "Using the poor ..." also discusses this subject. Best, rama