Professor Muhammad Yunus is a leading practical economist not only in Asia but also internationally. He has paved the way for new dimension in efforts to alleviate poverty by establishing the Grameen (rural) Bank based on his own idea.
Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, in 1940, Professor Yunus completed his post-graduate studies at Dhaka University. After his graduation, he went to the U.S.A. for further study and, in 1969, became an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University. In 1972, he returned to Bangladesh in order to contribute to the reconstruction of his native country upon its independence. The new government appointed Professor Yunus Deputy Chief of General Economics Division of the Planning Commission. His service to the government, however, did not last long, because his great intention and talent were not fully utilized in this position. After resigning from government service, he assumed the post of professor of economics and head of the Department of Economics, Chittagong University in his home town at the early age of 32.
In 1974, cyclones devastated Bangladesh, leaving a great number of casualties. The situation was further aggravated by the famine which followed it and brought more continuing, deep-rooted poverty. In these conditions, women in the villages, in particular, had to fight against such adversity. Unfortunately, they had to rely on usurers for even small amounts of funds. The grave situation of women compelled him to devote himself to more practical and necessary activities to alleviate poverty than teaching and research in the university. The motivation for his activities was his realization that the various theories for emancipating people from the "vicious cycle of poverty" were powerless in the real world. In addition, he held deep doubts about the practicality of economics, in which he had long majored.
Thus, in 1976, Professor Yunus launched a risky and completely new attempt to deliver small loans with no mortgage to women who were the victims of poverty in the poor villages of Bangladesh. What he found through his experiment was that women with loans could create new sources of income and small business opportunities through various creative ideas. He also noticed that they did fulfill their responsibility to pay off their debts on the due dates. Convinced that this was the way leading to the eradication of poverty, Professor Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in 1983. The bank has grown to become an organization helping women and their families rise out of poverty and support themselves. It provides small loans with no mortgage to about 2.4 million people in some 40,000 villages, accounting for half of all the villages in Bangladesh. Its activities have proliferated throughout the world under the name of "Micro-credit." Micro-credit banks based on his model have been established in more than 60 countries in the world.
Professor Yunus strongly believes that poverty destroys and humiliates every effort mankind attempts and that people do make an effort to support themselves and act with a sense of responsibility no matter how poor they may be. Coupled with this belief is his penetrating insight as an economist in understanding accurately where the problems lie. Professor Yunus, through his faith and ability, has implemented a series of creative programs, and has had a tremendous impact on countries throughout the world by presenting an effective model to challenge the issue of development and the eradication of poverty. These make him truly worthy of receiving the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.