World's growing inequality is 'ticking time bomb': Nobel laureate Yunus

Last Updated : 1st December, 2016

Published Date: Wed Nov 30, 2016
Published By:


 By Astrid Zweynert

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus addresses the Hult Prize Award Dinner during the Clinton Global Initiative in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The widening gap between rich and poor around the world is a "ticking time bomb" threatening to explode into social and economic unrest if left unchecked, Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus said on Thursday.

The banking and financial system has created a world of "the more money you have, the more I give you" while depriving the majority of the world's population of wealth and an adequate standard of living, Yunus told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Wealth has become concentrated in just a few places in the world ... It's a ticking time bomb and a great danger to the world," said the founder of the microfinance movement that provides small loans to people unable to access mainstream finance.

Yunus cited Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 and Britain's vote to leave the European Union on June 23 as expressions of popular anger with ruling elites who have failed to stem the widening global wealth gap.

A 2016 report by charity Oxfam showed that the wealth of the world's richest 62 people has risen by 44 percent since 2010, with almost half of the super-rich living in the United States, while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion fell 41 percent.

"This creates tension among people at the bottom (of the income ladder). They blame refugees and minorities - and unscrupulous politicians exploit this," said Yunus, who is due to address Trust Women, an annual women's rights and trafficking conference run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, later on Thursday.

"You don't trust other people, so you build walls," he said in reference to U.S. President-elect Trump's promise to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep out Mexican immigrants that he said were rapists and criminals.


To break free from an unequal financial system that disadvantages the poor, people should use their creative energy to become entrepreneurs themselves and spread wealth among a broader base of citizens, said Yunus.

"People are not born to be job seekers - they are entrepreneurs by nature," he said, adding that businesses that are focused more on doing social good than generating maximum profit can help to rectify economic and gender inequality.

"If wealth comes to billions of people, this wealth will not come to the top one percent (of rich people), and it will not be easy to concentrate all the wealth in a few hands," he said.

Yunus, 76, revolutionized finance for the poorest when he started providing tiny loans to Bangladeshi villagers at market interest rates without requiring collateral, helping them to escape what he termed a "slavery" relationship with loan sharks.

Grameen Bank, founded by Yunus, has lent money to 8.8 million people in Bangladesh alone since it was set up 40 years ago and its model of providing small loans to people, mostly women, has spread across the world.

Despite microfinance's global success there have been concerns that interest rates charged on the loans of up to 20 percent are high.

But Yunus says the rates are still far lower than local interest rates in developing countries or the 300 per cent or more that loan sharks might charge.

(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Katie Nguyen)

Related Contents

Muhammad Yunus on the Arab Spring, Global Change, and the Real Opportunity at the Bottom of the Pyramid

6th December, 2016

Published by: Knowledge@WhartonPublished Date: 29 May, 2012 A Nobel Peace Prize winner and...

Existing banks serve to rich, not to poor people

6th December, 2016

Published by: The AsiaNPublished Date: 24 November, 2016Prof. Muhammad Yunus is an extraordinary per...

The Greatest Happiness of Muhammad Yunus or: Throw Out the Old System

28th November, 2016

 Solving Human ProblemsIn his four-decade journey from microfinance to social business, 75-year...

Paving the Way Out of Poverty

6th December, 2016

Published by: TimePublished Date: 13 October, 2006By Ishaan Tharoor As the proverb goes, M...

Interview with Muhammad Yunus : his vision of social business

1st November, 2016

Published on - August 7, 2014 Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize (2006), sometimes called the "banke...

An Interview with the 'Banker to the Poor' Muhammad Yunus

1st November, 2016

 Published on - March 13, 2010This week I interviewed a banker who only lends money to people w...

Catching Up with Professor Muhammad Yunus

1st November, 2016

 Published on - March 11, 2015 At the 17th Microcredit Summit in Merida, Mexico, Gra...

Micro-Credit and Alleviating Poverty in Bangladesh

1st November, 2016

Professor Muhammad Yunus is the managing director and founder of Grameen Bank, which currently ope...

Professor Muhammad Yunus on the Power of Social Business

1st November, 2016

Published on - November 06, 2013 What, in your words, is a social business? The quicke...

Interview with Muhammad Yunus

1st November, 2016

Caroline Hartnell Published on - 15 September 2015 Pioneering anti-poverty practitione...