Need to redesign the system to create wealth for all, says Bangladeshi economist

Professor Muhammad Yunus
Updated 14 March 2018
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Need to redesign the system to create wealth for all, says Bangladeshi economist

DUBAI: The microcredit model has proved that millions of women can become entrepreneurs without any training or education, according to Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.
He also believes that the financial system needs to be redesigned to create a world that does not just benefit the rich.

Speaking to Arab News during his visit to Dubai recently, Professor Yunus said that the model of microcredit was to lend small amounts of money, about $20-$30, often to illiterate women in villages.

“These are women who never crossed the boundaries of their village. Yet they dare to take a $30 loan and become an entrepreneur,” Professor Yunus said.

The Bangladeshi economist hopes that young people will change the world. “They are not contaminated by the world’s way of doing things. They can start afresh as they have technology in their hands and can mold things their own way,” Professor Yunus said.

Professor Yunus talked about his most recent book, “A World of Three Zeroes,” which highlights the need for zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions.

“The sum and substance of it is that the world is going in a wrong direction. The speed of that direction and its negative impact is getting higher and higher so we are sitting on a ticking bomb, which can explode at any time,” he said.

He said that a large chunk of the world's wealth was becoming concentrated in the hands of a few. “Today 1 percent of the world population owns 99 percent of the wealth, and tomorrow it will be worse,” he said.

This will lead to massive discontent and political and social disasters, he said. “I call it a huge mushroom of wealth which continues to grow but the ownership of the mushroom is by fewer and fewer people.”

Professor Yunus said that he sees selfless business as social business, which essentially means a non-dividend company to solve human problems.

“We created a lot of those businesses. Microcredit is one. We didn’t create it to make money for us but to solve the problems of other people. We needed to create counter banking, which is the microcredit that we did via Grameen Bank,” he said.

According to him, the bigger challenge is that the system is working against the poor. “So no matter what you do, you only do marginally better. You are not participating in filling the huge gap where wealth concentration has taken place,” he said.

“In order to do that, you have to redesign the machine itself. Microcredit is one piece of that machine, and not the whole machine. The entire machine has to be redesigned in a way in which wealth goes in both directions,” he said.

He said that the existing system had led to a perpetual model in which the condition of the poor may improve but at the same time the condition of the wealthy will zoom sky-high.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.