Prof. Yunus to keynote top seminar on Friday to inspire Lankan corporates to ‘Be the Change’

Monday, 5 December 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Grameen Bank fame Prof. Mohanmad Yunus will be in Colombo later this week to inspire Sri Lankan corporates to ‘Be the Change’ under an initiative spearheaded by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga-linked South Asia Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI).

Yunus together with a senior executive from Tata Group India will speak at a full day-seminar titled ‘The Role of the Corporate Sector and Non-Governmental Agencies in Poverty Alleviation’ on Friday 9 December at the Galle Face Hotel.

He will share some key insights to his successful and novel concept of ‘Social Business’ whilst the TATA official will speak on two of its far-reaching CSR projects – the Kisan Kendras project to assist poor farmers to improve the quality of their produce and to transport it to markets with minimal spoilage while obtaining best prices; and the second project relates to a successful implementation of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in rural Gujarat.

Yunus’s concept of ‘Social Business’ is based on identifying the basic needs of the poor and helping to address them through non-governmental agencies and the corporate


 Among the problems tackled are malnutrition in infants/access to clean drinking water, the provision of clothing, etc.

“The seminar will showcase successful practices in our region by non-state actors, who have contributed positively to economic and social development,” a spokesman for SAPRI said.

A think tank spanning the South Asian region, SAPRI is a non-partisan, non-profit making organisation devoted to engaging in research and in promoting the implementation of best practices. It holds workshops, seminars and conferences and is committed to conveying the outcome of these research- based colloquia to decision-makers.

SAPRI holds the view which is also backed by empirical evidence that the corporate sector and non-governmental agencies could play an important role in the development of our countries, especially if governments build institutions where the wealth of resources in the public and private sectors and academia combine in the formulation of policy as well as in its implementation.

“SAPRI is committed to promoting inclusive and equitable growth. We hope that this seminar would open the way to dialogue on these lines,” the spokesman added.

SAPRI said poverty has been identified as one of the major causes of discontent and conflict in South Asia whilst South Asia is home to the largest number of poor in the world about 600 million, a quarter of the world’s poor.

Governments in the region have enunciated policies and implemented multifarious programmes in South Asia to deal with the problem of poverty. The accepted premise is that the entire developmental process, including poverty alleviation programs must be led and controlled by the State.

For decades since independence, enormous sums of money have been spent on programmes supposedly designed to meet the challenges of poverty. However, results have been relatively meagre.

The persistent inefficiency of bureaucracies and technocracies, combined with cumbersome delivery mechanisms of governments, cause massive delays and result in only a small number of the targeted populations, obtaining the benefits of governmental programmes.

Moreover, corruption within governmental structures, delivery channels and society cause massive losses of funds and resources. For instance, in some South Asian countries, it is estimated that inefficiency and corruption absorb 75% to 85% of allocations for poverty alleviation.

It is now accepted wisdom that in a globalized world in which the private sector leads economic growth and plays an increasingly important role in the national development process, it must also effectively play a major role in poverty alleviation.

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is beginning to be factored into the annual expenditure of a considerable number of private sector companies in the West and now to some extent in our region, SAPRI said.