Nobel Peace Prize credits microlender

Kai Ryssdal Oct 13, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: The last of this year’s Nobel Prizes was announced this morning. The Peace Prize winner isn’t a diplomat, a world leader or a peace activist. He’s an economist. He runs a bank.

Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh about 30 years ago, after a devastating famine there. Grameen specializes in what’s called microcredit. Extremely small loans. Sometimes less than a dollar. We had Dr. Yunus on the program back in May:

MUHAMMAD YUNUS: So I made a list of people who were borrowing. And when my list was complete, there were 42 names on that list, and total money they needed was $27. I was shocked because I was trained to think in terms of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, not $27.

So Yunus lent them the $27. Out of his own pocket. He got it all back. And, in fact, the repayment rates on Grameen’s microloans are far higher than those for most conventional loans. So far, more than 100 million people around the world have used microcredit.

The Nobel committee said Yunus and Grameen received the prize because attacking poverty is essential to world peace. When he was here I asked Muhammad Yunus whether his ultimate goal was realistic: To wipe out poverty completely.

YUNUS: It’s all a question of thinking. If you don’t think, you don’t get. The more seriously you think, the quicker you get. But you have to think that we want it, and we’ll get it. People wanted to go to the moon, and they did.

That’s today’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammad Yunus, speaking in an interview that first aired on Marketplace in May.

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