Monday, May 11, 2009

Creating a World Without Poverty, by Muhammad Yunus

This audio book was narrated by Patrick Lawlor, and was 10 hours and 15 minutes long.

The title alone is enough to put you off. It sounds like the work of some dreamer, a Pollyanna who has obviously never worked with the poor. But I picked this out to listen to it because I was already familiar with the author, and with the Grameen Bank.

Muhammad Yunus, an ivory tower economist, went back to his home country, Bangladesh, to find out for himself why his nation was, as Henry Kissinger once called it, a basket case. He found people willing to work, but who could not get credit at regular banks, and were at the mercy of predatory money lenders. So, he started making loans from his own resources, and proved that the poor can be good customers, and that they could be transformed by opportunity.

That is Yunus before this book, which is largely about the concept of Social Business: businesses that exist to serve the poor, pay no dividends, and are self-perpetuating in a way that charities are not. He takes us step by step through is experiences with helping poor people and even beggars become self-employed, and even his daring joint venture with an international corporation.

This book is inspiring and instructive. It should be read by anyone who says they care about the poor. His remarkable results, which includes a 98% repayment rate, are part of a very wholistic approach to responsibility and accountability. My doubts start to nag me when I think about the poor in America, where the work ethic does not seem to be as strong as it is in Bangladesh. We have something as hard to overcome as floods and famine: apathy and a sense of entitlement and victimhood. In spite of my negative feelings, this book does make you start working them out and searching for solutions.

The last 2 disks of this 11 disk set were pretty counter productive, unfortunately, as Yunus begins to go political. He forgets that his work stands on the shoulders of the donors and investors who are a part fo the selfish capitalist system he has a bone to pick with.

This was well worth the time, and even the money to buy it if you have the chance. It's a 4 star read before the diatribes.

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