Despite his mild manners Prof. Muhammad Yunus is easily recognizable in the crowd. It seems years of toil, and the recognition of his contribution to the world of finance, has added to his charm and remarkable humility.
The Nobel laureate is also a great communicator of ideas - those he propagates as well as those he detests. What strikes you is the clarity with which he explains his views.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Prof. Yunus said that all the wealth of the world is concentrated in the hands of a few, which is just not sustainable.
He said that the global financial order, as it stands today, is “a ticking time bomb” and will explode leading to massive problems, if not corrected.
“Today eight people have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the population and 99 percent of wealth is concentrated in half a dozen countries. So don’t call it a system, it’s a mockery of the system,” he said.
Prof. Yunus speaks from experience accumulated through years of trying to make an alternative system work for the marginalized and the underprivileged, primarily in his home country of Bangladesh.
He firmly believes that this system is the very core of capitalist system and that globalization has expedited it. Since then he took on the conventional banking system’s thesis “one cannot lend money to the poor people”. According to him, the success of his institution disproves this thesis.
“Today in the US we have 20 branches with 100,000 borrowers, all women. Startup loan is $1,500. Collectively they have taken over a $1 billion in loan and paid back in 100 percent repayment,” he said, adding that big companies are now designing social business alongside their conventional business with a bit of help from them.
Prof. Yunus described the Rohingya issue as a massive humanitarian crisis. “United Nations has said it, it’s a text book case of genocide and ethnic cleansing. We have to hold the Myanmar government responsible and hold Aung Sang Suu Kyi responsible for it,” he said.
He also emphasized the need for regulation of technology and said that if things like artificial intelligence leads to job losses, when 40 million youth join race for jobs every year, it should be discouraged.
“There is the right side of technology and there is the wrong side of technology. We should avoid the wrong side and focus on energy on the right side,” Prof. Yunus concludes.