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As Yunus falls, women’s microcredit hopes sink
Khadija Sharife (Eye on Civil Society column) 12 April 2011

One of civil society’s great hopes, that women’s access to microcredit would help eradicate poverty, has been dashed – both top-down with a fallen guru, and bottom-up with unaffordable interest rates in a context of patriarchy.

Last week, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court confirmed government firing of the founder of the Grameen Bank and the most important spokesman for microcredit, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. The court called Yunus “a squatter or a trespasser or a usurper” and bluntly denied his appeal, on grounds that at 70, he was ten years over the limit for managing a Bangladeshi bank.

But after mass Indian suicides by small borrowers, Yunus was already on the defensive about the direction microcredit had taken. The industry’s drive for profit-seeking was, he admitted toNew Age newspaper last week, “a terrible wrong turn.”

In South Africa the same disillusionment is setting in: although ABSA claims to have ‘impacted’ 30 000 small-scale borrowers with no previous credit history, its current microfinance clientele is just 4000. The main problem, it appears, is that the average cost to ABSA of debt collection from defaulting clients is R6000, but according to Bongiwe Tindleni, the head of ABSA’s microfinance division, “The loans range from R1000 to R15,000?

More articles on Microcrocredit from the CCS Library

A run on Grameen Bank’s integrity - Patrick Bond

The danger of Grameenism - Patrick Bond with Khorshed Alam


Debating Mbekism: Critique of leading SA economics official “utterly inaccurate and misleading” – or?

After publishing an article critical of Pretoria’s fetish for large-scale, highly-subsidised, capital-intensive, energy-guzzling projects, Patrick Bond was confronted by denials from one of the most eloquent SA government economic policymakers, Alan Hirsch, Deputy Director-General in the Presidency.

Alan Hirsch

Can reparations for apartheid profits be won in US courts?
by Patrick Bond October 2008
The campaign for apartheid reparations is in the US courts at present, pitting black South Africans in the Jubilee and Khulumani organisations (as well as individuals) against three dozen multinational corporations and friendly governments in Washington, London, Berlin and Pretoria. The demand for reparations extends the logic of international anti-racism solidarity campaigning, dating to the sanctions era. Plaintiffs’ use of the Alien Tort Claims Act extends a precedent set by Holocaust victims’ descendants. The US justice system’s conservatism is stretched, due to plaintiff appeals in 2008 reaching even the Supreme Court. And the change in SA government leadership may open up space to debate the critical questions: how to achieve justice from pro-apartheid corporations, and also disincentivise future exploitation in similar circumstances?
Can reparations for apartheid profits be won in US courts?

Global political-economic and geopolitical processes, structures and trends 2 September 2008
An August 2008 World Health Organisation study concludes that a “toxic
combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large
measure, responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world
do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible.” CCS
director Patrick Bond contributed this analysis (as well as a coauthored
study on water and health) to the Commission's Globalization and Health
Knowledge Network: "This chapter assesses major shifts in global
political economy and geopolitics since the 1970s, which have brought
together processes of governance and liberalization in often
uncomfortable ways. These processes have important manifestations in
society, including the generation of structural constraints to improved
health policy. Geopolitical realignments and neo-liberal policy
ascendancy can be observed in a series of several dozen moments in which
key events reflect important power shifts. The context has been a series
of durable economic problems: stagnation, financial volatility and
uneven development. Political alignments have followed, and remain in an
adverse balance of power, from the standpoint of redistributive
socio-economic reform. Any expectation that global governance offers
solutions, given the prevailing political-economic and geopolitical
processes, structures and trends, should be carefully reevaluated."

Global political-economic and geopolitical processes, structures and trends

Global Uneven Development, Primitive Accumulation and Political-Economic Conflict in Africa
By Patrick Bond

The world is witnessing a political-economic passage on a global scale:
from economic stagnation, amplified uneven development and financial
volatility to worsening primitive accumulation (‘looting’) and
socio-economic conflict. Considering Africa’s plight in this way
suggests intellectual links between the political economy and security
disciplines. Reforms proposed at the global level by elite bodies are
apparently ineffectual and actions taken by elites in the name of
conflict resolution often undermine peace because they reinforce the
very dynamic of external looting. If these reforms continue to fail, it
is to popular struggles that we should turn, especially in Africa where
oppression is most extreme and global and local elites have the least
credibility. For social movements, the objective of transforming power
relations as the basis for ending conflict and underdevelopment requires
engaging this new theoretical approach with a critique of capitalism.
Conflict and peace theorists should also consider other innovations in
political economy which address uneven and combined development,
primitive accumulation and imperialism more broadly.

Primitive Accumulation, Enclavity, Rural Marginalisation & Articulation
By Patrick Bond

In March 2006, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Civil
Society in Durban aimed to reinvigorate a tradition of political economy
by considering the legacies of Guy Mhone and José Negrão (who died in
2005) along with two others whose work was based on accounts of
‘primitive accumulation’: Rosa Luxemburg and South African sociologist
Harold Wolpe (who died in 1996). The analytical traditions are diverse
but complementary. Together they capture many of the ways that primitive
accumulation continues to structure and reproduce systems of inequality.

The Dispossession of African Wealth at the Cost of Africa's Health
By Patrick Bond

This article synthesizes new data about the outflow of Africa’s wealth,
to reveal structural factors behind the continent’s ongoing
underdevelopment. The flow of wealth out of sub-Saharan Africa to the
North occurs primarily through exploitative debt and finance, phantom
aid, capital flight, unfair trade, and distorted investment. Although
the resource drain from Africa dates back many centuries—beginning with
unfair terms of trade, amplified through slavery, colonialism, and
neocolonialism—today, neoliberal (free market) policies are the most
direct causes of inequality and poverty. They tend to amplify
preexisting class, race, gender, and regional disparities and to
exacerbate ecological degradation. Reversing this outflow is just one
challenge in the struggle for policy measures to establish a stronger
funding base for the health sector.

Transcending Two Economies
In the pages that follow, a group of South Africa’s leading political
economists tackle President Thabo Mbeki’s ‘two economies’ thesis, the
framework most popularly invoked for contemporary poverty policy in
South Africa. In short, poverty can be beat if sturdy (market-focused)
ladders are found between the second and first economy, which
unfortunately at present are ‘structurally disconnected’. On at least
two earlier occasions, a critical mass of university-based intellectuals
gathered in various publications to contest ideas of this sort: the
mid-1970s when radicals fought liberals over the relationship between
race and class; and the early 1990s when the South African version of
the Regulation School was established. Both contributions were flawed,
we will see. Since then, there has been a growing sense of the need to
revisit and reconstruct old frameworks, in part because of the
tremendous upsurge in popular social struggles associated with new types
of exploitation.

Competing Explanations of Zimbabwe’s Long Economic Crisis
By Patrick Bond

When did Zimbabwe’s apparently endless economic downturn actually begin?
  • February 2000, when Robert Mugabe began authorizing land invasions?

  • November 1997, when ‘‘Black Friday’’ decimated the currency’s value
    (by 74% in four hours)?

  • The prior months, when war vets were given pensions and Zimbabwe put
    troops into the Democratic Republic of the Congo to back the Kabila
    regime and secure investment sites?

  • September 1991, when the stock market crashed once interest rates were raised to high real levels at the outset of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP)?

  • The early 1980s, not long after Mugabe took power?

  • Or around 1974, when per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) began a
    fall that has not yet reversed itself?

  • More

    Are Norway's Global Financial Reforms Post-Imperialist?
    Patrick Bond

    Given the prevailing global balance of forces, what can the North’s most
    progressive government do, particularly if it’s in financially excellent
    shape? Global reforms have been few and far between since neoliberalism
    took hold at the world scale during the 1980s, especially in financial
    markets: from the 1982 Third World debt crisis outbreak in Mexico, via
    hundreds of major riots across the South against structural adjustment
    policies, to the mid-late 1990s emerging markets crashes (whose
    epicentre was also Mexico in 1994) and Joe Stiglitz’s late 1990s
    “Post-Washington Consensus” gambit at the World Bank, to the status quo
    UN Financing for Development summit in 2002 (also held in Mexico) and
    subsequent failures to democratize the Bretton Woods Institutions during
    the 2000s, notwithstanding the election of mainly Centre-Left and Left
    governments in Latin American. Is there a new day dawning from one of
    the northernmost capitals, Oslo? Might a “Post-Imperialist” North-South
    agenda emerge thanks to its leadership, particularly in aid and finance?
    Do trends in the petroleum markets permit a self-interest review of
    Norwegian foreign financial policy?

    Microcredit Evangelism, Health and Social Policy
    By Patrick Bond

    The awarding of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, provides an opportunity to consider the use and abuse of microfinancing, especially because credit continues to be touted as a
    poverty-reduction strategy associated with health education and health
    care financing strategies. Not only is the Grameen diagnosis of poverty
    dubious, but many structural problems also plague the model, ranging
    from financial accounting to market failures. In Southern Africa, to
    illustrate, microcredit schemes for peasants and small farmers have been
    attempted for more than 70 years, on the basis that modern capitalism
    and peasant/informal system gaps can be bridged by an expanded financial
    system. The results have been disappointing. A critical reading of
    political economy posits an organic linkage between the “developed” and
    “underdeveloped” economies that is typically not mitigated by capitalist
    financial markets, but instead is often exacerbated. When applied to
    health and social policy, microcredit evangelism becomes especially

     Relevant Publications
     The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 27: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURAL ECONOMY: Rosa Luxemburg 
     Capitalism & cheap labour power in South Africa: Harold Wolpe 
     Labour Market Discrimination and its Aftermath in Southern Africa Guy Mhone 

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