Muhammad Yunus won the award for starting the practice of microcredit, small loans to people who do not have collateral. Yunus began the practice in Bangladesh because poor people there only had access to credit through loan sharks who would charge outrageous interest.
Our snippet contains 4 out of the 10 questions that Time readers gave to Yunus.
Do you think it is ethical to charge the poor interest and make a profit out of it?
In Bangladesh, Grameen Bank charges the lowest rate among all microcredit programs, and yes, we make a profit. But Grameen Bank is owned by the borrowers, so when we make a profit, it goes back to the borrowers as dividends.
Are microloans taking a hit because of the recession?
POINT MARION, PA.
We use very local money that is going to the local poor, so there is no way the hit taken by the financial centers of the world could be transmitted to us. We don't see fluctuations in repayment rates or anything like that. We are O.K.
How would you help the world out of recession?
The system failed us. There's no reason why we should resuscitate it. We have to make absolutely sure that we don't go back to the same old normalcy. We should be creating a new normalcy. That opportunity has to be taken.
Microfinancing empowers Bangladeshi women. Is it driving cultural change?
Lucas Torrin, OTTAWA
The most dramatic thing that has happened in Bangladesh in the past 25 years is the total change in the status of women. Microcredit has played a very important role in that, particularly with poor women.