#SASI #campus #yunussocialbusiness
I was lucky enough (along with Victoria Reca) to meet Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Co-president of the HEC Paris Social Business /Enterprise and Poverty Chair as he was invited on HEC campus.
What fuels your fire in the face of statistics such as rising income inequality?
Finally, for my last question, I chose to go even broader, tackling the rise in global income inequality. Absolute levels of poverty and amount of income have risen over the past 30 years, but when one considers the data, average economic inequality rates in South Asia, Industrialized Countries, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and even East Asia have risen from 1988-2013. I wanted to know if these types of statistics ever discouraged Professor Yunus, and if so, how he found the inner passion to push through hardship and criticism. When asked, Professor Yunus gave an answer that provided his insight into the problem, but left his inner motivation to be inferred. He stated that he does not focus on the idea of income inequality, but rather on wealth concentration, which is the real problem. Wealth concentration focuses on all assets owned rather than the yearly income gained, or in analogous terms, the entire value of a company versus the yearly additional revenue. He specified that “wealth is the tree, income is the fruit… when you say income inequality and wealth concentration, these are two totally different aspects. Income is a minor aspect; wealth is what generates income.” Professor Yunus then elaborated further on the idea of income generation through wealth, because “in the system we have, the more you have the more people will give you more money. So you get bigger and bigger”. However, if you do not have any money, no sources of funding “will come to you… It’s a strange financial system, that’s wrong, we have to redesign that”. The brokenness Yunus spoke of is undeniably true, wealth concentration within the top 1% is staggering. In 2015 the richest 1% owned about 50% of the world’s wealth, a figure that has increased year over year since 2010, when it rested around 44%. So what is the solution to this problem? According to Professor Yunus, the answer lies in “bringing wealth redistribution”, part of which is brought about by encouraging people to become entrepreneurs. “Even the illiterate woman can be an entrepreneur… microcredit, the Grameen Bank, created an instance” supporting this point.
Nobody believed that lending money to the poor was possible, but the Grameen Bank numbers show otherwise, with a loan recovery rate of 96.67%. As entrepreneurs, people will work for themselves, not the 1%, as so many people do today. Yunus argued that we are like “mercenaries, soldiers for hire”, because “everyone wants to work”, but the people who have the money are the 1%, which in turn only perpetuates the current system. As for his motivation, it seems from the answer to lie within his passion for eliminating wealth concentration – it’s unclear if he seemed discouraged, but it was abundantly clear that at 74 years of age, his energy level and passion have not subsided.