Poor for the Money.

AWARDING the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank in 2006 was an acknowledgement of how world peace is only possible when the most severe forms of poverty and deprivation are adequately addressed.

We live in a world where the winners and losers are identified by their financial worth. In Dr Yunus’ view this is because the orthodoxy of economics has given shape to the existing world where all investment is locked in only one category — profit maximisation. However, there’s another aspect of doing business that is more concerned with the promotion of some social objectives than with merely earning bucks. Grameen Bank is the best example of such a business model. It has taught millions of poor people, a majority of them women, how to fish. But in order to fish, these poor people need the net, the boat and off course the opportunities to fish.

Banking for the Poor

Here in our part of the world there is an extreme need to turn around the basic axioms of micro-credit policies practiced by the conventional banks which are based on the collateral offered by the borrowers; the higher the collateral the more chances of getting a loan. There is no room for the poor to get any kind of loan from any of the larger commercial banks on the face of the earth. The world witnessed 1st greatest financial crisis in the first decade of the 21st century. And this seems to be just the beginning if no proper measures are taken. The biggest banks collapsed, but they were saved. No government seems to bailout the deprived class of the global village. Despite heavy developments in S&T, R&D the poverty statistics are getting disturbing each day.

At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.

The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for 5% of global income. The richest 20% accounts for three-quarters of world income.

According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. and they die quietly in come of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.

Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.

If accepted as a basic human right, the access to credit can play a pivotal role in bringing about an individual’s creativity.

In Pakistan the most widely spread microfinance bank is Khushhali Bank, The First Microfinance Bank comes second. They provide small loans without collateral. There is still space for the banks to improve upon their policies and practices in order to achieve the core objectives. Appraisal techniques should be used to evaluate potential clients and there should be plans to expand microfinance programs over a period of time so that more people can benefit from small loans. Another major shortfall of the MFIs is that they don’t help the debtors in identifying the avenues of investment for whatever little amount they are extended. Normal practice is that the MFIs give away money and sit back and wait for its return along with interest margin, and in microfinance case interest rate happens to be very high, the reason for this may be the ‘cleanliness’ (no-collateral) of the loans.

Microfinance policies should be very well-designed and properly managed. By redesigning our existing institutions and carving out more suitable institutions and policies, a poverty-free world is possible.

Doin’ it Li’l

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

Two poems that left an unforgettable imprint on my mind during school days were, W. Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ and anonymous ‘Little Things’ . The former made me fall in love with Nature and take note of things around me, while the latter helped me live a little happier life, everyday. Since then I have tried to make it my habit to do small acts that contribute towards making somebody feel special. It feels good to do something nice for someone. Likewise, it feels good when someone does something kind for us. It’s a win/win situation either way you look at it. I feel so much better when I have made some small gesture that day that makes me feel GLAD – in this way I have made today count. In making today count all the other mundane stuff that didn’t get accomplished doesn’t seem so important anymore.
I used to live in a small village 7 KM past Larkana city. Everyday I took same route to work on my motorcycle. I would see the same places and familiar faces. I would cross by the bus stop where I find a couple of folksmen waiting for the bus. I would stop there & ask them if anyone would like to accompany me to the town. Almost everyday I had a new companion, and during the short journey of almost 10 minutes we exchange few things/experiences with each other. I felt elated to have been of any help each day, and that morning became the best part of the day.



Being nice costs nothing


At my workplace there was a security guard stationed at the main gate, dressed in the standard uniform, navy blue pants & shirt, black shoes, & a gun. He was a retired police officer in his 60’s, tall, slender, attractive with a mustache, bear and dimples. The security guard greets everyone that walks by. No one is left-out. “Asalam Alaikum”, “How are you”, he makes small talk with many of the visitors, customers of our office, complimenting their outfits, and wishing them well. Everyday he has a specified number of toffees that he distributes among the staff, and the remnants among the visitors. He’s more than a security guard; he’s a staple of the morning rush. I admire how he knows so many people by their first name. His simple hello makes people feel special.

In the busyness of life, we often forget how easy it is to wish someone hello, and how great and lasting a difference it can make. When we say hello, to someone we know/or don’t know, and share from the heart, we become a pebble in the pond. With each ripple we create, we spread love that continues to give, long after it feels like it has disappeared. A small “Hi” or a simple “hello” from us would go a long way in bringing a smile on the person to whom it is directed. Sometimes starting out with a hello to a stranger can turn into everlasting friendship.


Kind hands


We should develop a habit of deriving joy from doing a small gesture of kindness in any form to strangers and the people we know. To strangers, it can be vacating our seat in the bus for someone older & also helping her/him get down, helping somebody carry heavy luggage, mediating in if two people are at the verge of fighting, saying ‘thank you’ to servant, waiter/waitress, buying something to eat to someone hungry etc. We should take note of the people we know in our life. What makes them smile? What stresses them out? When might they be in need of extra encouragement? A specific act of kindness doesn’t have to be a sweeping gesture. Sometimes it may be something very simple — a well-timed word or a well-chosen gift. If an affirming thought comes into your mind, say it. If you wonder if someone is in need, offer to help. If you find yourself thinking of a person, go a step further and act.

The question as to why we are unable to be a little considerate to people is answered with one adjective ‘busy’. The fact is that we haven’t yet realized the power & importance of doing small acts, and the sheer delight they bring to others & to us. A small act on our part can make a big impact on someone. Some actions might be less dramatic than others, but each one has the potential to make a big impact on someone.

I often think of doing small things that make people feel better. I make a list, and write out whatever the tasks that I wish to accomplish. At the end of the day when I look at my list of items and see that I’ve only crossed off a few of them I choose to be satisfied. It has become apparent to many individuals that by choosing to shift their energies toward a more altruistic mindset, their own troubles seem to melt away. They discover that our planet seemed more like an expanded playground when they played a part in pleasing others in small ways.

I’m sure you can think of one if not many small gestures to make. I will suggest a few here to get you started thinking about it. Opportunities like these arise everyday.

  • Donate A Pint of Blood
  • Read a story to a child
  • Phone a friend (don’t complain – keep the conversation upbeat)
  • Volunteer to help weed the public park flower garden
  • Offer your mail carrier a refreshing drink
  • Buy an extra cup of coffee at the coffee shop and give it away to someone
  • Skip a meal – Give your sack lunch to a homeless person
  • Offer to press your mom’s head
  • Visit the sick in your neighbor
  • Offer a prayer to someone in need
  • Wish a distant friend/relative birthday
  • Buy some poor shoes, clothes, books etc.

Start being considerate to someone whom you come across in your day to day life…..it may be your parents, it may be your spouse, it may be your son/daughter or it may be your driver too.

Have a wonderful everyday.