Nobel Peace prizewinner Muhammad Yunus was addressing a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference on growth and development en route from Bangla Desh to Mexico City. The conference attracted people from as far apart as Somalia and Paraguay and Haiti and Timor-Leste.
Yunus is the man who created an anti-bank bank called the Grameen Bank in Bangla Desh which broke every rule of traditional banking. As he put it : ” I went and talked to the banks and did precisely the opposite of everything they told me.”
His bank was only interested in lending money to the poorest in Bangla Desh – those with nothing so they could start tiny micro businesses. His ideas have now been taken up in developed economies notable the United States in New York and elsewhere.
He has been criticised however by people who say it is still exploitative and has not worked, The idea has been hijacked by others as this review suggests.
But his bank is extraordinary. he employs no lawyers, has no detailed contracts, and lends to people with no collatoral and yet 99 per cent of the small loans are repaid. Bad news for Price Waterhouse and City lawyers as well as banks.
I was particularly struck by one phrase he tells the unemployed in Bangla Desh to say. ” I am not a job seeker. I am a job creator. I want to start at the top not be exploited at the bottom.”
Now it occurs to me that this might have a lot of resonance to Britain post the crash. Capitalism and bankers are brilliant at helping the haves have even more so they can exploit the have-nots, What about turning the idea on its head and help the have-nots for once.
Britain is rapidly becoming a more unequal society in wealth and jobs. Constituencies near to me like Hemel Hempstead face a job feast this Christmas with Amazon and Royal Mail competing against each other to fill vacancies. Constituencies like Birmingham, Ladywood and Foyle in Northern Ireland face a job famine with over 11 per cent still out of work.
It also strikes me that among the wasted talent on the dole they must be people capable of learning skills, particularly in the child or personal caring professions, but can’t get going because they haven’t basic qualifications or access to a few hundred readies to get started. This is why Jobcentre plus in pushing them into low paid work, zero hour contracts, to become the new exploited of companies funded by wealthy private equity groups.
Now if a politician decided that instead he was going to find a way to connect with the dispossessed by setting up a bank only interested in funding them to create their own job – this might have more resonance in the real world than in the current Metropolitan elite.
Traditionally this idea sits with Labour – the party created by trade unions, that believes in social credit organisations rather than Wonga and backs the ideals of the Co-operative movement. But it could equally apply to the Greens and some strands in other parties
What better way to reconnect to the working class than allow him and her to get cash to buy equipment so they can earn some money, even get a second-hand white van. A veritable Job Creator Allowance.
What about the money for this? Why not use the huge fines on corrupt banks to kick start the scheme rather than as sticking plaster for the NHS (Labour) or tax cuts (Tory)? What is a more delicious idea than taking money from bloated, arrogant money manipulators and giving it to the very people they wouldn’t give house room?
How would it work? I don’t know but I now know a man who does. He is called Muhammed Yunus. Someone should call him up and put the idea in their party manifesto. He did speak after all in the Attlee Room, named after one of Britain’s greatest reforming Prime Ministers.