Mon, Oct 16, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bangladesh's first Nobel laureate promises to make poverty history

AFP , CHITTAGONG, BANGLADESH

Nobel Peace laureate and micro-credit pioneer Muhammad Yunus vowed to make poverty history as he unveiled new plans to transform the fortunes of Bangladesh's poor.

"I think it's quite possible to eradicate poverty from this world. I think we can halve the poverty level in Bangladesh by 2015. And in the next 15 years we can rid this land of it," Yunus said at the weekend after he was named the country's first ever Nobel winner.

Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which offers tiny loans to very poor borrowers to help them become self-employed, were jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The bank, which targets women because it believes they are better than men at running family finances, has given small loans to more than 6.6 million people since its inception in 1976.

"You change the environment, and we will lift thousands and millions of people out of poverty," he said.

"They don't need any grant to change their life. People have this power in them. You remove the lid of the hidden power and poor people will automatically change their lives," Yunus, known as the "Banker to the Poor," added.

Yunus has unveiled a string of new initiatives -- including health insurance for the poor, as well as information technology, solar energy and organic fertilizer projects.

Yesterday, the former economics professor flew to the southern port city of Chittagong to pay tribute to the women of nearby Jobra village where he started his pioneering scheme.

"I've come here to say thanks to the people of Chittagong, especially the women of Jobra village, who showed that micro-credit could indeed eradicate poverty," Yunus said at a reception in Chittagong city.

Yunus also made an impassioned appeal to the country's politicians to reach a consensus on election reforms in a bid to pave the way for free and fair general polls in January.

"The whole world is looking at us after the Nobel prize. It's now perfect time for the two major parties to reach a consensus so that we have a smooth election," he said.

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