Friday, October 20, 2006

Jerkstore Friday

Recently, a Bengali economist won the Nobel Prize.
This is a little excerpt from the Washington Post explaining his microcredit scheme:


Yunus, 66, set up a new kind of bank in 1976 in Bangladesh to lend to the impoverished, particularly women, enabling them to start small businesses without collateral.

He argues that if a woman sells eggs from five chickens, a loan that allows her to buy 50 chickens will increase her family's wealth and has minimal risk due to her experience and peer pressure from her village to repay the money.

His Grameen Bank says it has loaned nearly $6 billion to 6.6 million people and has a recovery rate of nearly 99 percent.

Yunus said poverty can lead to "political unrest, economic unrest and desperation, which can be the breeding ground for terrorism."

"Poverty is a very important aspect of peace," he said.

The microcredit movement is not for the faint of heart and it is certainly not for traditional bankers worried about collateral, risks and legal obligations, he said.

"They will be scared to death. How can you lend money like that? They will have sleepless night before they give $50."

Yunus wants to use the Nobel Prize as a springboard to get more people interested in the concept of microcredit, a system copied in 100 countries from the United States to Uganda.

"The door has been opened widely for me," said the man dubbed the "banker to the poor."

He would like to see the poor be given ownership for major infrastructure projects built with overseas aid, instead of having governments take control. The projects will be run by professional managers and the poor will be shareholders who want to see the highest possible returns on their small stakes.

"The importance of microcredit is that it is bite-sized."

Yunus had obtained his masters degree in economics from Dhaka University in 1961. A Fulbright scholar, he later obtained a Ph.D from Vanderbilt University in the United States.

Right. So I read a similar article in the Metro and sat there thinking "this guy Yunus is freakin' brilliant. This is exactly what third-world and developing nations need to build the local economy from within. How wonderful!" And everything was a-okay.


Today in the metro, some a**hole wrote this in response to the metro's article about Yunus' prize:

Farm Loans Ought to Be Sustainable

Regarding "Small loans, big impact": IS this some kind of joke? An economist wins a Nobel Prize for loaning someone a chicken? The ethics of exploiting living sentient beings aside, isn't this in fact the antithesis of progress? Give people technology, help them join the rest of the world in the 21st century. And if your loan must involve farming, make it for the sustainable, non-polluting larger-scale farming of healthful grains and vegetables that is environmentally sound and far more economical as well. Living of the flesh of animals is morally questionable and simply not an efficient means of provinding sustenance.

ha ha I want to write to the metro and say "is that letter some kind of joke?" though I think the fact that the Metro published it is somewhat of a joke. They probably look for the craziest editorial they can find and publish it for a laugh. The editors probably saw it and were like "oh this smart*ss thinks he's got a better idea than a Nobel Prize winner."

Let's break down the issues.

-idiot, the guy is lending money not chickens.
-veganism and vegetarianism is an option for some. but for a lot of people who can't skip down to the local Whole Foods because the nearest supermarket is a Wal-Mart, or the nearest supermarket is a country away, that simply isn't an option. A lot of people in third world countries cannot sustain themselves on grains and vegetables. I'm not an economist or an agriculturalist but I am just sharing what I've seen. When you go to a country where there's been a drought for three years and corn dries up as soon as you plant it and the plants that survive never bear fruit, explain to me how you're suppose to live? Chickens and eggs are an important source of protein, as are milk and beef - while it's more difficult to raise cattle in a drought, chickens and rabbits can survive on very little graze and water. They're essential for survival, and in this case how can you possibly say that "ethics" make the consumption of "sentient beings" "questionable" when it comes to sparing a human life?
-give people technology - oh are you volunteering the time, money and effort of bringing these people technologies, because I can assure you, their corrupt or in-debt governments won't be able to. Also, are you volunteering to train people how to use this technology? In some rural outposts in Kenya, they were just getting their first phone booths in 2003. 2003!!! If a place has no electricity and no phone lines, how the hell are they supposed to put technology to use? A book I've been reading Secrets of the Savanna by Mark and Delia Owens sums up technology in Africa quite well, in a chapter where Delia talks about her visit to a remote Zambian village, where, through microcredit, they planned to make the village sustainable and prevent villagers from turning to poaching for money: More than fifty villagers -- morthers with infants wrapped tightly to their backs with bright chitenje cloths, storng young men toting axes, and bent old men and women in tattered clothes -- waited on straw mats under a large fig tree. As we stepped down from the truck, four elders led by Isaiah greeted us. Isaiah, his blind eye staring straight into the bushes beyond me, shook my hand for a long moment and held on to it gently as he introduced the others. For three hours, with Sugar translating, we talked with the villagers about how they could support themselves in this remote and lovely spot. The farmers, who grew mostly corn and sorghum in small dry patches, said they could grow sunflowers if they had seeds, and if they had a press they could make cooking oil -- a priceless commodity they referred to as saladee-- which they had to travel at least five days by foot to obtain. The village needed a grinding mill, becasue crushing the maize by hand took hours of hard labor. A mill would provide industry for at least one family. Several women wanted to be beekeepers.

Standing under the fig tree, the mud huts behind us, Sugar and I explained that the project would train them and lend them money for equipment. We explained that they would be required to pay back the loans. Free handouts have been a plague in Africa. The continent is littered with failed development projects that were too large in scope, to high tech by design, and required no accountability. The result was broken-down tractors in dusty fields, dried rice paddies in ruined oases, sophisticated hospital equipment no one coudl repair in abandoned, wornout clinics. We assure them that no one had to participate; we were simply offering assistance to those who wanted it.

In this book Delia later talks about building a school for that same village. It took 3 and 1/2 years. Why? That's rural Africa for you - nothing happens fast ever.

Which is why this person's editorial is completely off. Clearly they've never been to a developing nation. Actually it sounds like the only time this person probably leaves their gated Wellesley or Weston community is to go to Whole Foods or Starbucks. So next time you venture outside, my friend, why don't you pick up a book about Africa or Asia and start planning your trip to the third world where you're going to bring technology and show farmers how to grow vegetables and grains without water. Then maybe you too would be fortunate enough to win a Nobel Prize for your good deeds. Until then, shut the f up and don't write into the Metro. My blood pressure really can't handle it.

** in rereading this rather harsh assessment of the editorial in this morning's metro, I would like to point out that I adore Starbucks and Whole Foods and think that they're companies that actually care about the world, and that many of their customers feel the same way. Actually, if I didn't believe in God, I'd probably worship Whole Foods and Starbucks....hmmm....ANYWAYS I used them as an example, mixed in with the gated community in a rich suburb just as an example, a stereotype, which is wrong because I know there are caring people in Weston and Wellesley. But the stereotype does serve a purpose in this individual situation, LOL.

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