documentary

Micro Credits – A Solution For Poverty?

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By Viktor Persson

After the Norwegian Nobel prize committee decided to give the United States president Barack Obama the peace price, a president that later came to continue to war in Iraq, and also fund insurgents in Syria, I seriously started to doubt the reasoning skills of the members of this Nobel Prize committee. And after having watched the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’ by Tom Heinemann, I have concluded that the Nobel Prize committee (at least those handing out the peace prize) do not know anything about what it means to create actual peace in this world. Because when they decided to give Muhammad Yunus the peace price, for having founded the Grameen Bank, and invented the concept of micro loans, and for thereby apparently having found a solution to poverty, they were obviously not using basic mathematics to assess the outflows of such loan methods.

YunusThough, before we dive into the basic mathematics of Micro Debt and whether this can be a solution for poverty or not, let me share the story of Muhammad Yunus, his bank, and the stories that has begun to surface about his money lending practices. It begins in 1976 when Yunus (supposedly) found out that small loans could make a disproportionate difference in a poor person’s life. According to Wikipedia, the first loans Yunus gave, made it possible for the borrowers to profit. Yunus business expanded, and by July 2007, his bank had issued around US$6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers.

As mentioned above, Yunus was awarded the peace price in 2006 for his efforts to create economic and social development. However after the release of the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’ the Bangladeshi government decided to review Yunus bank, and Yunus himself was removed as Managing Director of his bank. This is not particularly strange considering the claims that are made in the documentary, and the compelling evidence that it presents, that the micro debt is not at all a solution for poverty, but rather a trap, making the large amount of borrowers worse off than before.

Though in this blog I am not going to focus on Yunus and whether the claims made against him are true or not. My focus will instead be the concept of micro credits and whether these loans makes any sense; is it really possible to remove poverty through debt? The Micro Credit concept is not unique to Bangladesh; it has also become popular in South Africa, where it has created the opposite of poverty reduction. The following quote gives a stark description of the situation that unfolded.

”The microcredit-induced problems that emerged in South Africa are two-fold. First, microcredit per se is actually an “anti-developmental” intervention. For one thing, it exists on paper to support the smallest income-generating activities, but in practice is increasingly all about supporting consumption spending. In South Africa, the microcredit movement has created an incredibly risky and expensive way to support the immediate consumption needs of the very poorest.

With few poor individuals possessing a secure income stream that might ensure full repayment of a microloan – unemployment is now higher than it was under apartheid – many of the poorest individuals have been forced to repay their microloan by selling off their household assets, borrowing from friends and family, as well as simply taking out new microloans to repay old ones. For far too many now “financially included” individuals in South Africa, using microcredit to support current spending has been a disastrous and irreversible pathway into chronic poverty.”

Milford Bateman, Microcredit has been a disaster for the poorest in South Africa, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/nov/19/microcredit-south-africa-loans-disaster (2015-09-25)

 

Euros - MicrocreditAcademics and other proponents of the Micro Credit as a way out of poverty makes the assumption that the money lent will be used by the borrower to further his business. This however, is just that, an assumption. Most poor people are just as middle class people, not entrepreneurs, and do not have a very entrepreneurial relationship with money. The loan will be used to buy goods for immediate consumption, and will only serve to put more pressure on the debtor. In worst-case scenario, this will lead the already poor person, to loose the little safety they do have, when they are forced to sell their house to meet interest and installment payments.

Further, those borrowers that are indeed entrepreneurs, and that do invest their money in a business, there is nothing that says that these businesses will be able to profit. Nine out of ten startups fail – and that number will probably be even higher when not only you, but also all of your neighbors, decide to go out on the streets and sell the same thing – which did happen in South Africa.

Then we have the big problem when it comes to Micro Credits, the interest rates. On some of the Micro Loans that interest rate will be at 100 % or more. There is no startup that yields a sufficient profit to cover such a high interest rate. Conveniently for the creditors, most of the debtors are not proficiently literate, and will thus not really understand what they are signing.

Yunus was applauded when he was able to offer loans to poor people that cannot offer any securities in case they would forfeit on their installments. However, to ensure repayment of the loans, Yunus bank have developed a system of “solidarity groups”. It is these small informal groups that together apply for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another’s efforts at economic self-advancement. Hence Yunus use the psychology of group pressure to ensure that the poor people are sufficiently motivated to pay back their loans. And even though this might seem innocent, in reality it has lead to the most horrific of consequences. One woman that was unable to pay her loan was pressed by her co-guarantors to take up prostitution as a way to meet her installment payment. That woman later poured kerosene on herself, and lit herself on fire. That is the effectiveness of group pressure when survival is in the picture.

What are we then able to conclude from all of this? One thing is clear: We cannot trust academics to know what is right! Even though they have a degree in economics, and even though they have received the Nobel peace price, that does not mean they actually understand how reality operates. Academics have their nose buried in deep books and because of that they will many times miss what is right before their eyes. Hence, we have to educate ourselves, and take responsibility. We cannot rely on a small intellectual elite to know how to solve such things as poverty – this is a problem that involves, and touches all of us, and accordingly it is everyone’s responsibility.

Then, the second thing we can learn: Change cannot come through DEBT. The very reason why we are living in a world where money is increasingly more difficult to obtain is because of DEBT. We live in a debt based system, and this forces us to work more – and even still there will/must be a loser. With debt, someone always loses; someone must be that poor guy that has to pay back the interest.

Real change will come through changing the structural design of the economic system – because only through changing the rules of the game are we removing this incessant fear of survival that is currently holding the entire human race in its grip. That structural change must involve giving all human beings a dignified life, real security, real safety, and easy access to money. This cannot come from debt, as debt is the very instigator of fear, anxiety and stress.

Hence, if you are interested in solving poverty, I suggest that you investigate the Living Income Guaranteed. This is an economical system that will revolutionize the way we think about money – and that is precisely what we need. We need something new, a brand new way of looking at things – a fresh start – free from debt and the old pessimistic ideas that apparently, poverty is unable to be removed from the face of this earth.

 

For more reading:

http://www.marlenvargasdelrazo.com/the-micro-debt-the-nefarious-business-on-poverty/#

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/nov/19/microcredit-south-africa-loans-disaster

 

Watch the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=791&v=yoAGKFaqwjM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6KHa4omGG8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdmXLpjykNk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncBXy_AvNUY

 

Investigate the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal

Redemption and the Right to a Living Income

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by Kristina Salas 

Redemption - Canning Documentary - Living Income GuaranteedFor anyone who thinks and believes that those that are unemployed, receiving assistance from the state or federal government, or living on the streets are lazy and no good, feeding off the system, I suggest you watch the HBO documentary Redemption.

Here we watch people all over the streets of New York collecting bottles and cans as a way to survive. To them this is their full time job, walking block after block, day after day, going through trash that sits on the corner to collect all and any bottles or cans that can be recycled. Why do they do this? Because for each bottle or can, they can receive five cents. This seems hardly anything to be working so dam hard for, yet they are doing it. They are doing it with their children because they cannot afford childcare, and because they are extra hands to help out, they are doing it without sleeping, they are doing it to afford to live in a one bedroom apartment with seven other people. They are doing it because money matters in the fight for survival and is the only option available to them.

Redemption Documentary - Canning - America - Living Income GuaranteedBefore you assume to think these are people who put themselves in this situation, as if they deserved it, think again and watch the documentary. These are people with degrees, who have worked for such companies as Microsoft, who worked at the World Trade Center, who fought in wars for ‘our freedom’, who cannot survive on the social security they receive alone.
These are people who are doing what they can to survive, because the harsh reality is that if you make one wrong move, you too can be put out on the street without a helping hand. And you will then see what it’s really like to live for your survival. Money gives us a buffer, we do not see the extent to the consequence our system of life on Earth creates – because we did not pull the shorter stick.


Anyone who suggest that someone does not deserve a Living Income, a dignified life with the resource required to survive, simply because they are not working the job we define as ‘acceptable’ – put yourself in the shoes of another. What would you do to survive? Is your right to food, shelter, hot water, clean clothing more valid then someone who isn’t working, or not doing a job we classify as normal? Would you be willing to walk the streets of New York, digging through trash bags in front of fine dining establishment, simply to ensure you can buy yourself a sandwich for the day? What does shame have to do with anything when it comes to survival?

Redemption - Canning Documentary - LIGI suggest anyone that has such a judgment on those that are down and out and willing to do ANYTHING to make a few bucks, to watch this documentary, to put yourself in their shoes, and to then ask the question, why are Human Rights not a RIGHT given to all, unquestionably?


Investigate the
Living Income Guaranteed proposed by the Equal Life Foundation. The core principle is that all humans have unalienable rights to life – that means food, water, shelter, clothing, education. These cannot and should not be denied to anyone, whether you are not able to find a job, in between jobs, victim of layoffs, whatever – that no matter your situation, YOU have the right to a dignified life, and that you are not FORCED to sift through the rubbish of other humans to collect your income.

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Living On Stolen Money – Decision or Consequence?

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By Viktor Person

Crimes Criminality LIG Living IncomeA life of crime is two-part documentary (I’ve posted embeds of the videos in the bottom of the post), where a filmmaker follows some criminals during two periods in their lifetime. The first time he meets them they are in their late twenties and still quite strong and vigorous, and they are sustaining themselves through shoplifting. In part two he meets them when they are in their middle thirties and life has begun to take a toll on them.

What is so interesting about this documentary is that it reveals the mindset of the criminals, the WHY of their decision to become criminals. Several times throughout the documentary they exclaim that they are able to make much more money through stealing than through having a regular job. Working one day as a shoplifter makes them around 3000 dollars, while working one day at McDonald’s makes them about 80 dollars. Thus, what is clear is that these people are not driven by some form of bad moral, or psychopathic desire to cause harm to others. No – in-fact these shoplifters are economist’s showing to us what kind of consequences our current economic system create.

It’s obvious that thieves, shoplifters and burglars are not an incident or mishap, they are consequence, they are not an anomaly, they are a predictable outcome – the result of an equation. For those of us that have led a life of money, it’s hard to relate to and understand what goes through a person’s mind when he or she decides to become professional shoplifter, because most of us born in economically stable environments would perceive it as immoral, wrong and barbarian. However, for someone born at the very low end of the hierarchy theft and a criminal life is a way of escaping a permanent sentence to a life poverty, and hard work.

Economists would probably agree with me, because it’s simple mathematics, when there is no support for those at the bottom, no hope for a better life, no ability to rise and build a life for oneself, then crime is a way out = supply and demand = cause and effect = problem and consequence.

Thus, realize, when crime rise, it’s not something bad, it’s actually an indication that something is very, very wrong with society, and that there are some drastic changes required. Realize that when prisons are filled to the brim with people, then we have a sick society, and that sickness can be traced back to the unequal distribution of money and resources.

This is where we require embracing a paradigm shift, because in order to make our lives better, our society more safe, our life experiences more rewarding, we must learn to give – we must learn to give, as we’d like to receive. Most of us have extremely difficult to grasp this concept, and when confronted with it, we shiver and turn inside, immediately out of our mouths comes the statements that “it’s unfair!” – “they should work for their money!” – “we can’t change that!” – “there will always be crime!” – but see, this is not common sense, this is assumptions, ideas, projections, and in actuality useless opinions that have no significance in terms of how reality actually works.

The fact is that, when we make the decision to give all an equal opportunity to make something worthwhile of themselves in this world, we are doing ourselves a significant favor. We will in doing that release so much pressure, fear, and society will become a completely different place, where crime will be significantly less.

One of the solutions we’re able to implement is a minimum wage, and not just any minimum wage, but a big minimum wage with which one can buy luxurious items, start a family and make one’s life comfortable and enjoyable. Manual labor such as working for McDonald’s, or similar, shouldn’t be awarded with a salary that merely puts one on the breadline. Instead dedicating oneself to contributing to society should be awarded amply; it should be more profitable to live honestly than to make living as a criminal.

So, the key to designing a successful society is to ask us the question WHY? Because everything that happens in this world does so for a reason – our physical reality is filled with equations and these in turn produce various results, and through changing the variables, we’ll change the result.

Investigate the Living Income Guaranteed and allow yourself to step up and become a social engineer, question the movement of your daily life, what happens, why it happens, and how it could be changed in such a way that all are included. Because it’s clear that – there are SOLUTIONS – we must simply be brave enough to see and apply them.

 

 

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