Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bangladesh hails nation's first Nobel Prize winner

AFP , DHAKA

Bangladesh reacted with pride and delight yesterday as microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus became the country's first Nobel Laureate and tributes poured in from around the world.

Thousands of people besieged his home on the outskirts of Dhaka eager to congratulate the Nobel Prize winner credited with lifting millions out of poverty.

Yunus, whose Grameen Bank specializes in giving small loans to landless, rural people to help them become self-employed, greeted the delighted crowd along with his wife and one of his daughters and said he was honored to have won for Bangladesh.

"It's the proudest moment for a Bangladeshi," said well-wisher Ansar Ahmed, whose mother took a loan from Grameen Bank that transformed the family's fortunes.

"I am delighted that he won the prize because what he has done for me and for thousands of families like us is simply wonderful. I am here to say thanks to him for his work for us," he added.

President Iajuddin Ahmed led the nation in celebrating Bangladesh's first Nobel Prize winner.

"The image of Bangladesh will be brightened further across the world with this prestigious Nobel Prize award to the distinguished personality Muhammad Yunus," the president said in a statement.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said Yunus' prize, awarded jointly to Grameen Bank, was a source of huge pride to the whole country of 144 million people.

"The entire nation is proud of the first Nobel Prize for any Bangladeshi citizen. Dr Yunus' microcredit program has benefited millions of poor," she said.

Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan praised Yunus for his "selfless service ... rendered to the poorest of the poor, bringing hope to the hopeless."

"He has made Bangladesh proud and I, as a childhood friend, feel especially elated to share this glorious [sense of] pride with him," he added.

The Bangladeshi media also paid tribute to the economist, hailing him as the country's greatest social reformer.

"We all dream, but Professor Yunus' dream is audacious," said the English-language Daily Star in a front-page commentary.

"In celebrating Professor Yunus' Nobel Peace Prize let us emulate the greatest social reformer of our time," it said.

"Congratulations Mr Bangladesh," added the Bengali daily Jai Jai Din in a front-page editorial. "At last Bangladesh has a world-class role model."

Meanwhile, UN chief Kofi Annan praised Yunus and Grameen Bank, saying that microfinance had "proved its value as a way for low-income families to break the vicious circle of poverty, for productive enterprises to grow and for communities to prosper."

Yunus, an economics professor, began fighting poverty during a devastating famine in Bangladesh, setting up Grameen Bank in 1976 as a pilot project to provide credit for people too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

The concept has since been copied in more than 40 countries.

"He is the only economist in the world to have invented a new theory of economics and made it work at the grassroots level. His work is now taught at many universities and is part of economics textbooks," said Bangladesh's top economist Wahiduddin Mahmud who teaches at Dhaka university.

"The Nobel award for Dr Yunus was long overdue. Thanks to his practical work, today, microcredit is one of the most influential economic ideas in the field of global poverty alleviation," he said.

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