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Nobel Laureate Calls on Japan to Think Small Where Aid is Concerned


The Bangladeshi economist who won the Nobel Peace Prize is calling for more development aid from donor countries like Japan to be funneled directly to the world's poor. Muhammad Yunus says he is at least finding it easier to meet government officials who were previously unreceptive to his proposals.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is calling on Japan to take a closer look at microcredit when it comes to foreign aid.

Yunus is credited with creating the innovative program of giving tiny loans, mostly to rural women, to help pull them and their families out of poverty.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo Wednesday, Yunus said he hopes the Nobel award will prod Japan, one of the biggest donors of development aid, to lead the way in supporting small loans to the poor, instead of concentrating on large infrastructure projects.

"It has a lot of leverage in what kind of thing they will prioritize and where they put their money," Yunus said. "And we are trying to bring this to the attention of the Japanese that microcredit would be a very important vehicle through which they can address the question of poverty, in particularly with women, in their program."

Yunus also says he would like to collaborate with Japanese corporations to start so-called social business enterprises in developing nations. In such projects, companies do not make a profit, but are able to recoup their investment.

The American-educated economist, a director of the U.N. Foundation, is in Japan for the organization's annual board meeting. He says that before he and his Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 13, it took considerable effort to arrange meetings with Japanese officials. Now, he says, doors here are opening for him quickly.

The U.N. Foundation, started by American media magnate Ted Turner, has donated $1 billion to programs within the U.N. system.

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