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Australia Could Benefit From An Altruistic Bank Model

Australia's next wave of small business owners may not be able to afford to take the first step.

08/06/2017 3:46 PM AEST | Updated 08/06/2017 3:46 PM AEST
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Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel laureate, believes we were born to provide for ourselves.

"Human beings are not born to work for anybody else."

These are the values of Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the founder of the highly successful Grameen Bank Model.

What is the Grameen Bank?

It's a social business -- a non-dividend company geared to solve human problems. The Grameen Bank philosophy is to alleviate social problems and provide small collateral free loans to the poor so they can create their own small business.

People need to learn how to handle their money and how to run businesses in order to ensure success.

You get a small loan with no collateral and this loan helps you create a business of your own. Profits made are reinvested into the business. It is a bridge away from expensive or non-mainstream lending and an opportunity to rebuild human dignity.

Yunus believes for the millions of years that we have been on the planet, we never worked for anybody. We are go-getters, farmers, and hunters. We used to live in caves and hunt for our own food instead of sending job applications. These values are what the Grameen Bank is based on.

Could this model be replicated in Australia? Does it need to be? Well, here's a quick background into Australia's poverty. While we are a first-world country, 17 percent of the population, which equates to three million of us, is financially excluded.

Non-English-speaking immigrants, the indigenous population, those living in remote areas, those who are employed on a part-time and casual basis, and sole parents bear the brunt of the poverty. Political decisions normally make ethnic minorities the victims.

There are also gender payment disparities.

These factors contribute to poverty.

The multidimensional manifestations of poverty include; material resources, employment, education and skills, health and disability, social, community and personal safety. Many Australians are excluded from one or more of these life domains.

With this in context, the Grameen Bank model could be a sound idea. Yes, we do already have microfinance in Australia such as Many Rivers Microfinance and Good Shepherd Microfinance. But microfinance isn't always not-for-profit and we have many sharks and non-mainstream lenders.

Some may even argue why we need this type of lending. We already have advanced social welfare, which protects our citizens against extreme poverty, and, what's more, these current welfare recipients may be complacent in changing their habits.

In Australia, you need substantial loans to be able to create a business and generate income. However, the bigger the loans, the bigger the risk of having a collateral and lawyer free bank.

If a social business that advocates building businesses like the Grameen Bank were to enter into Australia, the model could take a leadership role. It should acquire and merge with other micro lenders and make micro finance more sophisticated.

It could assist in the development of government policy in reducing the adverse impact of much of the non-mainstream lending activities. It could provide a stimulus for small business growth by getting the poor into small business. It would have to act as a true not-for-profit bank.

Finally, the most important of all to ensure success is to offer the funds to the poor, coupled with financial discipline and business education. People need to learn how to handle their money and how to run businesses in order to ensure success.

We all know the phrase 'give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime'. The Grameen Model is a way of allowing Australians in poverty a chance to start a business, unleash their potential and become a job entrepreneur instead of a job seeker, and in doing so, remove themselves from poverty.

Australia needs this type of social business to fight the ever-increasing poverty. There are ways it can happen. There are ways to make it work.

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