Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, left, and Sudheer Gupta, professor at SFU Beedie and director of the Jack Austin Centre for Asia Pacific Business Studies at SFU's Vancouver campus on Feb. 5, 2018.

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SFU Beedie: Nobel laureate warns that traditional economic systems are failing the world's poor

February 07, 2018
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Traditional economic systems are failing society’s most vulnerable, a Nobel laureate and microfinance pioneer warned during a talk Monday at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus addressed more than 300 people during the SFU Beedie special event Feb. 5, 2018.

Yunus, who founded microfinance organization Grameen Bank, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, among many other international honours and awards, for his pioneering work developing microfinance to help people lift themselves from poverty.

SFU Beedie hosted the event at the Segal Graduate School in Vancouver as part of a promotional tour for Yunus’s most recent book, A World of Three Zeros: the new economics of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero carbon emissions.

Speaking with moderator Sudheer Gupta, a professor at SFU Beedie and director of the Jack Austin Centre for Asia Pacific Business Studies, Yunus described his modest ambitions in 1976, when he began experimenting with providing micro-loans to women in rural Bangladesh.

The driving principle behind his work, he says, is a core belief that traditional economic systems fail society's  most vulnerable members.

“The financial system has been designed the wrong way,” he says. “The basic principle is that the more you have, the more you can get.”

The result: the world’s wealth is increasingly owned by a tiny proportion of people, with just eight individuals owning more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of the world’s population, according to Yunus.

In response to this, he created Grameen Bank, which rejects accepted notions of commercial success and exists only to help people.

“The whole idea is to help people get out of poverty, not an instrument to make money for yourself,” he says. “It is a non-dividend company to solve human problems.”

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