How do you look at poverty in South Asia?
South Asia is a backward region with high level of concentration of poor people of the world. Thus, we need to focus on them. Given our own experiences in Bangladesh, what I can say is micro-credit can play an important role. Despite concentration of the number of financial institutions, they are unable to reach out to the poor. As big financial institutions have failed to reach the poor due to their procedural approach, micro-credits can help eradicate poverty.
What are your views on SAARC?
My dream is to see the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation becoming a functional organization and Kathmandu as Brussels of South Asia. The institution is now in hibernation. Once SAARC is active, we may see politics going out of context. There live one fourth of the population in South Asia and highest concentration of poor of the world. Many nations have already overcome poverty. I am proud to say that we have done much faster than the history.
How do you view the Millennium Development Goals?
So far as the Millennium Development Goals are concerned, we are meeting all the goals. For instance, Bangladesh has reduced poverty much faster, recently at 2 percent per year. Despite such success, there are still 31 percent of people in Bangladesh living below the poverty line. So far as Bangladesh is concerned, we will eradicate poverty by 2030. I am confident that South Asia region as a whole will eradicate poverty by 2030 because the region has resources and creative power. Poverty alleviation depends on the process.
Is poverty created by the people?
Poverty is not created by the poor people and it is not contributed internally. It comes from outside and it is externally imposed. Poverty alleviation requires a system where poverty cannot grow. Poor people have the good capability too, but the society rarely gives them enough space. The important question is how to enlarge space for them? There is the need to rearrange the system to provide credit to the poor. When bigger institutions have failed to provide support, micro-credits should do so . Our judiciary is not created for the poor as the banking system. Our health system too is directed at the rich. My effort is, why not, we can create a system where the poor can get everything. Here comes Grameen Bank. We have also used technology to alleviate poverty. For instance, the Grameen Phone is another example.