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WB ignores planet's poorest: Yunus

The Nobel laureate says more of the global lender's large projects should be owned and run by poor locals.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 11:57 IST

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has urged the World Bank to change course by focusing more directly on the billion people living in the direst poverty.

Yunus, who is known in his native Bangladesh as the "banker to the poor," said on Monday more of the global development lender's large infrastructure projects should be owned and run by poor locals, and not by governments.

"This is an ongoing battle for us," he told a news conference at a global summit on microcredit initiatives being held in Halifax (Canada).

"We've been raising this issue for a long, long time, that the World Bank repositions themselves where poverty is concerned, so far as development is concerned," Yunus said.

"I have very, very strongly tried to persuade the World Bank to pay direct attention to the poor people," added the Nobel laureate and managing director of the Grameen Bank, which offers loans to impoverished Bangladeshis.

Yunus said the World Bank's former president, James Wolfensohn, had shown signs of wanting to support the microcredit community, but that "the institution didn't back him up."

The Nobel laureate has been working for decades in Bangladesh to combat dire poverty by extending tiny business loans, averaging around $100, so that impoverished individuals can expand a small food or handicraft business.

The loans are offered without collateral to people who are often illiterate and have had no contact with the formal banking system. Yunus claims that nearly 99 per cent of people who take out a loan pay the Grameen Bank back.