Bangladeshi economist receives Nobel Peace Prize

Muhammed Yunus, who won prize for microcredit banking, hopes award will inspire more "bold initiatives" to fight world poverty.

muhammed yunus 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
muhammed yunus 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus said Sunday while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that he hoped the award would inspire more "bold initiatives" to fight world poverty. Yunus, 66, often called the banker to the poor, shared the coveted award with his Grameen Bank for helping people, even beggars, rise above poverty by giving them microcredit - small, usually unsecured loans. "Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights," Yunus said in the text of his acceptance speech, released before the awards ceremony. Yunus, the first Nobel Prize winner from Bangladesh, said poverty exists because the world allows it to exist by doing too little. "We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve," Yunus said in his prepared remarks. Grameen Bank was the first lender to provide microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed, and repayment is based on an honor system, with about a 98 percent repayment rate. Yunus was accepting the prize, which includes a gold medal, diploma and his half of 10 million Swedish kronor (€1.1 million; US$1.4 million) cash award at a gala ceremony in the Oslo City Hall. Board member Mosammat Taslima Begum was accepting the award on behalf of Grameen bank. "The peace prize to Yunus and Grameen Bank is also support for the Muslim country of Bangladesh, and for the Muslim environments in the world that are working for dialogue and collaboration," said the text of awards committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes' presentation speech. By giving tiny loans, averaging (US$200; €150), to about 7 million people, 97 percent women, the bank has helped them earn a living by, for example, buying a chicken, acquiring a cell phone to rent out, or buying raw materials to build products to sell. Yunus said 58 percent of the bank's borrowers now live above the poverty line.