Muhammad Yunus (1940-Present)

“Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.”

“When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.”

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.”

“I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social systems that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.”

“If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.”

“Poverty does not belong in civilized human society. Its proper place is in a museum. That’s where it will be.”

“When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman’s second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.”

“We are faced with famine in 1974 and people are dying of hunger. When people are dying of hunger, and you are a young economic teacher, teaching an elegant economic theory in the class room, it doesn’t make you feel good. Because all your brilliant theories don’t seem to, come into use of the people who dying. And it ‘s death you cannot explain because it’s not cause of disease. ..it’s just of not having food to eat…
So in the situation like that you have nothing but frustration and agony. So one way, I try to kind of enlightened my frustration and agony by coming to the conclusion that I may not be useful as an economist, but I’m still a basic human being. I can just go out and stand next to human being. And see if there’s anything I can do to another person. Even for a day if it is help, pay for more a day, I feel more a little bit better. So that’s why I started going outside the campus.”

“I thought if you can become an angel for 27 dollars, it would be fun to do more of it.”

“What I did not know yet about hunger, but would find out over the next twenty-one years, was that brilliant theorists of economics do not find it worthwhile to spend time discussing issues of poverty and hunger. They believe that these will be resolved when general economic prosperity increases. These economists spend all their talents detailing the process of development and prosperity, but rarely reflect on the origin and development of poverty and hunger. As a result, poverty continues.”

“People.. were poor not because they were stupid or lazy. They worked all day long, doing complex physical tasks. They were poor because the financial institution in the country did not help them widen their economic base.”

“..things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.”

“The challenge I set before anyone who condemns private-sector business is this: If you are a socially conscious person, why don’t you run your business in a way that will help achieve social objectives?”

“The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability.”

“Even today we don’t pay serious attention to the issue of poverty, because the powerful remain relatively untouched by it. Most people distance themselves from the issue by saying that if the poor worked harder, they wouldn’t be poor.”

“UN studies conducted in more than forty developing countries show that the birth rate falls as women gain equality… I believe income-earning opportunities that empower poor women … will have more impact on curbing population growth that the current system of “encouraging” family planning practices through intimidation tactics.. Family planning should be left to the family.”

“If we want to help poor people out, one way to do that is to help them explore and use their own capability. Human being is full of capacity full of capability, is a wonderful creation. But many people never get a chance to explore that, never, no that she nor he has that.”

“I believe that the emphasis on curbing population growth diverts attention from the more vital issue of pursuing policies that allow the population to take care of itself.”

“The process of breaking down fear was always my greatest challenge and it was made easier by the careful work and gentle voices of my female workers.”

“The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world. All we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them!”

“In the United States I saw how the market liberates the individual and allows people to be free to make personal choices. But the biggest drawback was that the market always pushes things to the side of the powerful. I thought the poor should be able to take advantage of the system in order to improve their lot.”

“Grameen is a private-sector self-help bank, and as its members gain personal wealth they acquire water-pumps, latrines, housing, education, access to health care, and so on.”

“Another way to achieve this is to let a business earn profit that is then taxed by the government, and the tax can be used to provide services to the poor. But in practice it never works that way. In real life, taxes only pay for a government bureaucracy that collects the tax and provides little or nothing to the poor. And since most government bureaucracies are not profit motivated, they have little incentive to increase their efficiency. In fact, they have a disincentive: governments often cannot cut social services without a public outcry, so the behemoth continues, blind and inefficient, year after year.”

“Changes are products of intensive efforts.”

“…one cannot but wonder how an environment can make people despair and sit idle and then, by changing the conditions, one can transform the same people into matchless performers.”

“The direct elimination of elimination of poverty should be the objective of all development aid. Development should be viewed as a human rights issue, not as a question of simply increasing the gross national product (GNP).”

“To me, the poor are like Bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate.”

“Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on.”

“I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.”

“Like navigation markings in unknown waters, definitions of poverty need to be distinctive and unambiguous. A definition that is not precise is as bad as no definition at all.”

“I profoundly believe, as Grammen’s experience over twenty years has shown, that personal gains is not the only possible fuel for free enterprise. Social goals can replace greed as a powerful motivational force. Social-consciousness-driven enterprises can be formidable competitors for the greed-based enterprises. I believe that if we play our cards right, social-consciousness-driven enterprises can do very well in the marketplace.”

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