Grameen Bank

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Grameen Bank
TypeBody Corporate (Bank Ordinance)
IndustryFinancial services
Founded1983
Founder(s)Muhammad Yunus
HeadquartersDhaka, Bangladesh
Number of locations2,565 (July 2010)[1]
Area servedBangladesh
Key peopleMohammad Shahjahan, Acting Managing Director (CEO)
ProductsMicrofinance
RevenueIncrease 12,435,830,045 Taka (176.67 million USD) (2010)[2]
Operating incomeIncrease 8,513,832,110 Taka (120.95 million USD) (2010)[2]
Net incomeIncrease 757,241,322 Taka (10.76 million USD) (2010)[2]
Total assets125,396,957,972 Taka (2010)[3]
Employees22,149 (July 2011)[1]
Websitegrameen-info.org
 
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Grameen Bank
TypeBody Corporate (Bank Ordinance)
IndustryFinancial services
Founded1983
Founder(s)Muhammad Yunus
HeadquartersDhaka, Bangladesh
Number of locations2,565 (July 2010)[1]
Area servedBangladesh
Key peopleMohammad Shahjahan, Acting Managing Director (CEO)
ProductsMicrofinance
RevenueIncrease 12,435,830,045 Taka (176.67 million USD) (2010)[2]
Operating incomeIncrease 8,513,832,110 Taka (120.95 million USD) (2010)[2]
Net incomeIncrease 757,241,322 Taka (10.76 million USD) (2010)[2]
Total assets125,396,957,972 Taka (2010)[3]
Employees22,149 (July 2011)[1]
Websitegrameen-info.org

The Grameen Bank (Bengali: গ্রামীণ বাংক) is a microfinance organization and community development bank started in Bangladesh that makes small loans (known as microcredit or "grameencredit"[4]) to the impoverished without requiring collateral. The name Grameen is derived from the word gram which means "rural" or "village" in the Bengali language.[5]

The system of this bank is based on the idea that the poor have skills that are under-utilized. A group-based credit approach is applied which utilizes the peer-pressure within the group to ensure the borrowers follow through and use caution in conducting their financial affairs with strict discipline, ensuring repayment eventually and allowing the borrowers to develop good credit standing. The bank also accepts deposits, provides other services, and runs several development-oriented businesses including fabric, telephone and energy companies. Another distinctive feature of the bank's credit program is that the overwhelming majority (98%) of its borrowers are women.

The origin of Grameen Bank can be traced back to 1976 when Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Fulbright scholar at Vanderbilt University and Professor at University of Chittagong, launched a research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted to the rural poor. In October 1983, the Grameen Bank Project was transformed into an independent bank by government legislation. The organization and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006;[6] the organization's Low-cost Housing Program won a World Habitat Award in 1998. In 2011, the founder Muhammad Yunus was sacked from the Grameen Bank.

Contents

History

Muhammad Yunus, the bank's founder managing director, earned a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States. He was inspired during the terrible Bangladesh famine of 1974 to make a small loan of US$27.00 to a group of 42 families so that they could create small items for sale without the burdens of predatory lending.[7] Yunus believed that making such loans available to a wide population would have a positive impact on the rampant rural poverty in Bangladesh.

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, the bank's founder

The Grameen Bank (literally, "Bank of the Villages", in Bengali) is the outgrowth of Yunus' ideas. The bank began as a research project by Yunus and the Rural Economics Project at Bangladesh's University of Chittagong to test his method for providing credit and banking services to the rural poor. In 1976, the village of Jobra and other villages surrounding the University of Chittagong became the first areas eligible for service from Grameen Bank.[8] The Bank was immensely successful and the project, with support from the central Bangladesh Bank, was introduced in 1979 to the Tangail District (to the north of the capital, Dhaka).[8] The bank's success continued and it soon spread to various other districts of Bangladesh. By a Bangladeshi government ordinance on October 2, 1983, the project was transformed into an independent bank.[8] Bankers Ron Grzywinski and Mary Houghton of ShoreBank, a community development bank in Chicago, helped Yunus with the official incorporation of the bank under a grant from the Ford Foundation.[9] The bank's repayment rate was hit following the 1998 flood of Bangladesh before recovering again in subsequent years. By the beginning of 2005, the bank had loaned over USD 4.7 billion[10] and by the end of 2008, USD 7.6 billion[11] to the poor.

The Bank today continues to expand across the nation and still provides small loans to the rural poor. By 2006, Grameen Bank branches numbered over 2,100.[12] Its success has inspired similar projects in more than 40 countries around the world and has made World Bank to take an initiative to finance Grameen-type schemes.[13]

The bank gets its funding from different sources, and the main contributors have shifted over time. In the initial years, donor agencies used to provide the bulk of capital at very cheap rates. In the mid-1990s, the bank started to get most of its funding from the central bank of Bangladesh. More recently, Grameen has started bond sales as a source of finance. The bonds are implicitly subsidised as they are guaranteed by the Government of Bangladesh and still they are sold above the bank rate.[14]

Application of microcredit

Grameen believes that charity is not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue as it creates dependency and takes away individual's initiative to break through the cycle of poverty, whereas loans offer people the opportunity to take initiatives in business or agriculture, providing earnings and enabling them to pay off the debt.

Grameen regards all human beings, including the poorest, as endowed with endless potential, and that unleashing the creativity in each individual should be the answer to poverty.[15] Grameen has offered credit to many poor, women, illiterate and unemployed people. It created access to credit on reasonable terms such as the group lending system and weekly-installment payment with reasonably long term of loans, enabling the poor to build on their existing skill to earn a better income in each cycle of loans.[15]

Grameen’s objective has been to promote financial independence among the poor. Yunus encourages all borrowers to eventually become savers so that their local capital can be converted into new loans. Since 1995, Grameen has funded 90 percent of its loans with interest income and deposits collected, hence aligning the interests of its new borrowers and depositor-shareholders. Hence, Grameen distinguishes itself from such institutions by converting deposits made in villages into loans for the more needy in the villages (Yunus and Jolis 1998).[16]

It targets the poorest of the poor, with a particular emphasis on women, who receive 95 percent of the bank’s loans. Women represent a suitable clientele because, given that they have less access to alternatives, such as traditional credit lines and incomes, they are more likely to be credit constrained and they have an inequitable share of power in household decision making. Lending to women also generates considerable secondary effects, including empowerment of a marginalized segment of society (Yunus and Jolis 1998). This is especially crucial as Yunus claims that in 2004, women still have difficulty getting loans as it represented less than 1 percent of borrowers from commercial banks (Yunus 2004).[16] The interest rates charged by microfinance institutes including Grameen Bank is high compared to that of traditional banks; Grameen's interest (reducing balance basis) on its main credit product is about 20%.[17]

Down the years, Grameen has also diversified the types of loans it makes. Among its new interests, hand-powered wells and loans to support the enterprises of Grameen members' immediate relatives. There were also seasonal agricultural loans and lease-to-own agreements for equipment and livestock. The bank also set a new goal for itself: making each of its branches free of poverty, as defined by benchmarks such as having adequate food and access to clean water and latrines.

16 Decisions[18]
  1. We shall follow and advance the four principles of Grameen Bank: Discipline, Unity, Courage and Hard work – in all walks of our lives.
  2. Prosperity we shall bring to our families.
  3. We shall not live in dilapidated houses. We shall repair our houses and work towards constructing new houses at the earliest.
  4. We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus.
  5. During the plantation seasons, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible.
  6. We shall plan to keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health.
  7. We shall educate our children and ensure that they can earn to pay for their education.
  8. We shall always keep our children and the environment clean.
  9. We shall build and use pit-latrines.
  10. We shall drink water from tubewells. If it is not available, we shall boil water or use alum.
  11. We shall not take any dowry at our sons' weddings, neither shall we give any dowry at our daughter's wedding. We shall keep our centre free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage.
  12. We shall not inflict any injustice on anyone, neither shall we allow anyone to do so.
  13. We shall collectively undertake bigger investments for higher incomes.
  14. We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help him or her.
  15. If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any centre, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
  16. We shall take part in all social activities collectively.
Grameen Bank Building in Dhaka

Grameen Bank is best known for its system of solidarity lending.[13] The Bank also incorporates a set of values embodied in Bangladesh by the Sixteen Decisions.[19] At every branch of Grameen Bank the borrowers recite these Decisions and vow to follow them. As a result of the Sixteen Decisions, Grameen borrowers have been encouraged to adopt positive social habits. One such habit includes educating children by sending them to school. Since the Grameen Bank embraced the Sixteen Decisions, almost all Grameen borrowers have their school-age children enrolled in regular classes. This in turn helps bring about social change, and educate the next generation.

Solidarity lending is a cornerstone of microcredit and the system is now at work in over 43 countries. Although each borrower must belong to a five-member group, the group is not required to give any guarantee for a loan to its member. Repayment responsibility solely rests on the individual borrower, while the group and the centre oversee that everyone behaves in a responsible way and none gets into a repayment problem. There is no form of joint liability, i.e. group members are not obliged to pay on behalf of a defaulting member. However, in practice the group members often contribute the defaulted amount with an intention of collecting the money from the defaulted member at a later time. Such behavior is facilitated by Grameen's policy of not extending any further credit to a group in which a member defaults.[20]

There is no legal instrument (no written contract) between Grameen Bank and its borrowers, the system works based on trust.[21] To supplement the lending, Grameen Bank also requires the borrowing members to save very small amounts regularly in a number of funds like emergency fund, group fund etc. These savings help serve as an insurance against contingencies.[13]

In a country in which few women may take out loans from large commercial banks, Grameen has focused on women borrowers as 97% of its members are women.[22] While a World Bank study has concluded that women's access to microcredit empowers them through greater access to resources and control over decision making, some other economists argue that the relationship between microcredit and women-empowerment is less straightforward.[23] In other areas, Grameen's track record has also been notable, with very high payback rates—over 98 percent. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, a fifth of the bank's loans were more than a year overdue in 2001.[24] Grameen claims that more than half of its borrowers in Bangladesh (close to 50 million) have risen out of acute poverty thanks to their loan, as measured by such standards as having all children of school age in school, all household members eating three meals a day, a sanitary toilet, a rainproof house, clean drinking water and the ability to repay a 300 taka-a-week (around 4 USD) loan.[25]

Village Phone program

Among many different applications of microcredit by the bank, one is the Village Phone program, through which women entrepreneurs can start a business providing wireless payphone service in rural areas of Bangladesh. This program earned the bank the 2004 Petersburg Prize worth of EUR 100,000/-, for its contribution of Technology to Development.[26] In the press release announcing the prize, the Development Gateway Foundation noted that through this program:

...Grameen has created a new class of women entrepreneurs who have raised themselves from poverty. Moreover, it has improved the livelihoods of farmers and others who are provided access to critical market information and lifeline communications previously unattainable in some 28,000 villages of Bangladesh. More than 55,000 phones are currently in operation, with more than 80 million people benefiting from access to market information, news from relatives, and more.[26]

Struggling members program

In 2003, Grameen Bank started a new program, different from its traditional group-based lending, exclusively targeted to the beggars in Bangladesh.[27] This program is focused on distributing small loans to beggars. The existing rules of banking are not applied, the loans are completely interest-free, the repayment period can be arbitrarily long, for example, a beggar taking a small loan of around 100 taka (about US $1.50) can pay only 2.00 taka (about 3.4 US cents) per week and furthermore the borrower is covered under life insurance free of cost.[28]

Operational statistics

One unusual feature of the Grameen Bank is that it is owned by the poor borrowers of the bank, most of whom are women. Of the total equity of the bank, the borrowers own 94%, and the remaining 6% is owned by the Government of Bangladesh.[22]

The bank has grown significantly between 2003-2007. As of October 2007, the total borrowers of the bank number 7.34 million, and 97% of those are women.[22] The number of borrowers has more than doubled since 2003, when the bank had only 3.12 million members.[29] Similar growth can be observed in the number of villages covered. As of October 2007, the Bank has a staff of over 24,703 employees and 2,468 branches covering 80,257 villages,[22] up from 43,681 villages covered in 2003.[29]

Since its inception, the bank has distributed Tk 684.13 billion (USD 11.35 billion) in loans out of which Tk 610.81 billion (USD 10.11 billion) has been repaid.[30] The bank claims a loan recovery rate of 96.67%,[30] up from the 95% recovery rate claimed in 1998.[30] David Roodman has critiqued the accounting practices that Grameen used to determine this rate.[24]

Nobel Peace Prize

Grameen Bank received several prestigious awards including the highest civilian award in Bangladesh, the Independence Day Award, in 1994. However, the greatest recognition of the bank's achievements came on October 13, 2006, when the Nobel Committee awarded Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below."[31] The award announcement also mentions that:

From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world.[31]

On December 10, 2006, Mosammat Taslima Begum, who used her first 16-euro (20-dollar) loan from the bank in 1992 to buy a goat and subsequently became a successful entrepreneur and one of the elected board members of the bank, accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of Grameen Bank's investors and borrowers at the prize awarding ceremony held at Oslo City Hall.[32]

Grameen Bank is the only business corporation to have won a Nobel Prize. In a speech given at the presentation ceremony, Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, mentioned that, by giving the prize to Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wished to focus attention on dialogue with the Muslim world, on the women's perspective, and on the fight against poverty.[33]

The Nobel prize announcement was celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in Bangladesh.[34] Some critics asserted that the award affirms neoliberalism.[23]

Related ventures

The Grameen Bank has grown into over two dozen enterprises represented by the Grameen Family of Enterprises. These organizations include Grameen Trust, Grameen Fund, Grameen Communications, Grameen Shakti (Grameen Energy), Grameen Telecom, Grameen Shikkha (Grameen Education), Grameen Motsho (Grameen Fisheries), Grameen Baybosa Bikash (Grameen Business Development), Grameen Phone, Grameen Software Limited, Grameen CyberNet Limited, Grameen Knitwear Limited, and Grameen Uddog (owner of the brand Grameen Check).[35]

On July 11, 2005 the Grameen Mutual Fund One (GMFO), approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Bangladesh, was listed as an Initial Public Offering. One of the first mutual funds of its kind, GMFO will allow the over four million Grameen bank members, as well as non-members, to buy into Bangladesh's capital markets. The Bank and its constituents are together worth over USD 7.4 billion.[36]

The work of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh Inspired the creation of the Grameen Foundation, which aims to share the Grameen philosophy and accelerate the impact of microfinance on the world’s poorest people.[37] Grameen Foundation, which has an A-rating from [Charity Watch],[38] not only provides microloans in the USA itself (the only developed country where this is done), but also supports microfinance institutions worldwide with loan guarantees, training, and technology transfer.[39] As of 2008, Grameen Foundation supports microfinance institutions in the following regions:[40]

Premiering at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the film To Catch a Dollar documents the process of establishing Grameen America programs in Queens, New York in 2008. The documentary is expected to open in September 2010.

Criticism

Analysts have suggested that microcredit can bring communities into debt from which they cannot escape,[41][42][43][44] citing situations where microloans from the Grameen Bank were linked to exploitation and pressures on poor families to sell their belongings, leading in extreme cases to humiliation and ultimately suicides.[45]

The Mises Institute's Jeffrey Tucker suggests that microcredit banks depend on subsidies in order to operate, thus essentially becoming another example of welfare,[46] whereas Yunus believes that he is working against the subsidized economy, giving borrowers the opportunity to create businesses. Some of Tucker's criticism is based on interpretations of the Grameen's 16 decisions, seen as indoctrination, without further analysing what they mean in the context of poor, illiterate peasants.[citation needed]

Maulana Ibrahim, a reactionary imam in Bangladesh, spoke out against the Grameen Bank in 1993 for fostering "un-Islamic ways", alleging (referring to the lenders' pledge) that women were taking a vow not to obey their husbands and not to live in poverty anymore.[47]

Grameen bank has been accused of tax evasion in a Norwegian documentary, Caught in Micro debt. These accusations have recently been repeated in a Spanish documentary, Microcredit. The accusation is based on the unauthorised transfer of approximately US$100 million donated by The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) from one Grameen entity to another "Grameen Kalyan" in 1996, before the expiry of the Grameen bank's tax exemption. Muhammad Yunus denies that this is tax evasion: "There is no question of tax evasion here. The Government has provided organizations with opportunities; we have made use of these opportunities with aim of benefitting our shareholders who are the rural poor women of Bangladesh."[48]

David Roodman[49] and Jonathan Morduch[50] question the statistical validity of studies of microcredit's effects on poverty, pointing to the complexity of the situations involved.[51]

Yoolim Lee and Ruth David discuss how microfinance and the Grameen model in South India have in recent years been distorted by venture capitalism and profit-makers, leading poor rural families into debt spirals, harassment by microfinance debt collectors, and in some cases suicide.

Difficulty in exporting the Grameen Bank Model

Muhammed Yunus envisioned the Grameen Bank to be a banking model for the poor. The model is essentially providing loans to the poor to embark on an income generating activity. This will catalyse their escape from poverty.[52]

Despite the bank’s success in Bangladesh,[53] little success has been achieved in exporting the Grameen Bank Model to other poverty-stricken areas. There is an estimated demand of 1 billion micro-borrowers globally, with a total loan demand of $250 billion.[54] However, the present microfinance model can only provide for 100 million of them and $25 billion of loans.[54] The immense funding gap points to a constraint within the capital structure of the Grameen Bank.

Yunus believes the predominant aim of Grameen Bank is to improve the social welfare of the poor. Thus, The Grameen Bank Model has adhered to a collective ownership model and discouraged use of foreign capital. Yunus believes that this model best represents the borrowers’ interests. Today, the Grameen Bank is 95% owned by the local poor and 5% by the government.[55] In a discussion with Vikram Akula, CEO of SKS Microfinance, Yunus emphasised the notion that introducing foreign capital will induce the bank to adopt more profit maximizing methods and distorting the aims.[56] Thus, microfinance should only be financed by local depositors. A paper published by Deutsche Bank reinforces this by showing that local deposits are the cheapest and most sustainable source of financing.[54]

However, this model is extremely restrictive. By eliminating the option of tapping into the capital markets for funds, it greatly limits microlenders to operate effectively. This is especially the case in countries which have stricter banking laws.[57] In India, microlenders cannot accept deposits due to local banking regulations.[57] These cash-strapped microlenders have to turn to local banks or rely on government grants. This source of capital is usually unstable, insufficient, or too expensive,[57] as it relies too heavily on the goodwill of the government or the corporate credit cycle. In order to adequately meet the growing financing needs, there is a need to source for an alternative source of capital which is cheaper and more permanent. In that thought, it is also equally important to structure the financing such that it does not lose the socially responsible aim of microfinance.

See also

References

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Further reading

External links