New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the economy’s ugly truth that it does not recognise informal sector like women and migrant workers mainly because of the Western bias in handling the financial systems, Bangladeshi economist and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus said on Friday.
In an online interaction with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Yunus proposed an autonomous rural economy as a solution to this problem. It was a part of a series of video conversations Gandhi has held with global and Indian thought leaders to discuss the Covid-19 crisis and its consequences on the country’s economy.
Yunus said the rural economy has become an appendix to the urban economy. “Again, a traditional western way of looking at the urban economy… [as] the hub of activities. The rural economy is the supplier of labour. It is the labour producing factory… if you do not find a job, you have bad luck…,” said Yunus.
Yunus said the pandemic has given a chance to reflect and take bold decisions. “In a normal situation, [we] will not pay attention to all these items. We are so busy making money. So I said coronavirus gave us a respite, gave us a window of thinking and we have a choice now.”
He said an autonomous rural economy can be build parallel to the urban economy. “Today, the situation has changed than 100 years back. Technology has given us a facility which never existed before. Cities were important because… [they] had the infrastructure. Rural areas did not have the infrastructure. Today, infrastructure is not limited to urban areas,” he said. Yunus said rural areas have telecommunications, roads, transportation, and communications. “So everything is there. So what is it that you have to go to the city [for]?”
He was referring to the recent exodus of migrant labourers from cities to rural areas because of job losses during the nationwide lockdown imposed to check pandemic spread from March 25.
Rahul Gandhi linked Yunus’s views to Mahatma Gandhi’s economic philosophy of the self-sufficient village economy. “…if I think about Mahatma Gandhi, he, 78 years ago, was saying that we need to think about the rural economy,” he said.
Yunus said the pandemic has offered a chance to think new, an opportunity to make a break, and not just quietly go back to the pre-Covid time. “Why do we have to go back to that world… with global warming, with wealth concentration… why do we have to go back to that system to create wealth concentration? Why do you have to go back to that world where artificial intelligence is taking away jobs…?”
Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006, established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983 to help the poor escape poverty by providing them loans. He said the bank’s foundation was based on mutual trust. “We do not need any papers. In the entire Grameen system, there is no paper. There is no collateral… I say Grameen Bank is the only bank in the world which is lawyer free.”