I’VE DEVOTED MOST OF MY life to working for the poorest people, particularly the poorest women, trying to remove the hurdles they face in their efforts to improve their lives. Through the tool known as microcredit, Grameen Bank, which I launched in my home country of Bangladesh in 1976, makes capital available to poor villagers, especially women. Microcredit has since unleashed the entrepreneurial capabilities of over 300 million poor people around the world, helping to break the chains of poverty and exploitation that have enslaved them.
The impact of microcredit in enabling millions of people to lift themselves
out of poverty helped to expose the shortcomings of a traditional banking system that denied its services to those who needed them most—the world’s poorest people. This is just one of many interrelated problems suffered by the poor: lack of institutional services, lack of clean drinking water and sanitary facilities, lack of health care, inadequate education, substandard housing, no access to energy, neglect in old age, and many more. And these problems are not restricted to the developing world.
In my global travels, I’ve found that low-income people in the world’s richest nations are suffering from many of the same problems. In the words of Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize–winning economist, “If you had to choose between living in a poor village in India and living in the Mississippi Delta or in a suburb of Milwaukee in a trailer park, I’m not sure who would have the better life.”
THE TROUBLES PLAGUING POOR PEOPLE throughout the world reflect an even broader economic and social problem—the problem of rising inequality caused by continuous wealth concentration.
Inequality has been a hot subject in politics for ages. Many powerful political
and social movements and many ambitious initiatives have been launched in
recent years that attempt to address this problem. Much blood has been shed
on the issue. But the problem is as far from being solved as ever. In fact, plenty of evidence shows that, in recent decades, the problem of the ever-expanding gap in individual wealth has been getting worse. As the economy grows, so does the concentration of wealth.
This trend has continued and even accelerated despite the positive effects of national and international development programs, income redistribution programs, and other efforts to alleviate the problems of low-income people. Microcredit and other programs have helped many lift themselves out of poverty, but at the same time, the richest have continued to claim a greater share of the world’s wealth.
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