Nobel Laureate Talks to Khaosod About Inequality ‘Time Bomb’

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus at lunch Tuesday with editors and reporters in Bangkok.
Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus at lunch Tuesday with editors and reporters in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus wants to see more attention paid in newspapers to combating inequality.

Speaking during a Tuesday visit to The Matichon Group, which publishes Khaosod and Khaosod English, Yunus noted there were no such dedicated sections in Thailand or most of the world and stressed why it is important.

“Inequality is a ticking time bomb. Inequality is increasing,” said Yunus, who is known for founding the world-famous Grameen Bank and pioneering the concept of microcredit as well as microfinance. He jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 together Grameen Bank for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated.

The 78-year-old man warned that social systems are collapsing as equality gaps widen.

“China produced more billionaires last year than the past 10 years combined,” Yunus said, adding that there are even billionaires in his native Bangladesh now.
“Ninety-eight percent of the world’s wealth today belongs to them. It’s a danger for the whole human race because we are destroying one another in 30 to 40 years,” Yunus said during the lunch meeting. “When you are in the bottom, you don’t get anything.”

The Nobel laureate asked why, after four decades of promoting micro credits, banking systems have not changed and the microcredit concept he popularized is still in the footnotes. Meanwhile, half the world’s population, about 4 billion people, lack access to credit. Yunus, who clearly enjoys talking as much as sampling Thai food, didn’t offer any answers of his own.

He’s also promoting so-called “social business” around the world as an alternative to the marketing trend of Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR programs.

His notion of social businesses differs from commercial and nonprofit organizations in that all profits go toward social objectives and seek to solve social problems.

“No personal gain is desired by its investors. A social business can address problems such as providing healthcare, housing and financial services for the poor, nutrition for malnourished children, providing safe drinking water, introducing renewable energy and much more in a business way,” according to information published by his center.

In Thailand, introducing such a concept has been a challenge, said Bordin Rassameethes, director of the Yunus Social Business Centre at Kasetsart University’s Business School, which was established in July 2016 to promote social business research.

Bordin said Thai corporations would rather engage in public relations through CSR projects. He added that some Thai cooperatives could be transformed into social businesses.

On a personal note, the septuagenarian who spends half his time traveling the world to spread his ideas, said there are two phases to life.

“There’s nothing called retirement. Phase One is to take care of family. Phase Two is to do things for the rest of the world. That’s where I am.”

Note: The last two paragraphs of this article have been removed at the instruction of Matichon Group management. Matichon Group is the parent company of Khaosod English, which was not responsible for the decision.