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Banking in Bengali

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted February 17, 2006

There's an unwritten rule in international business: the more dangerous the opportunity, the more enticing and astronomical the rewards could be.

I've already told you about China and what's going with the world's most dynamic economy. But China is no secret.

In fact, in my first couple of weeks here at Wealth Daily, I was interviewed about the China boom a half dozen times on radio shows across the country.

If the cat was ever in the bag, it's gotten out and is doing the dragon dance as if every day were Chinese New Year.

But I'm perfectly fine with that, because China isn't even my specialty, even though I spent a full month there on a research junket.

My skill is getting inside information and opinions from people in the boondocks, speaking their language (literally when possible, which is quite often). Keeping my ear to the buzz of the peddlers and open-air markets, I can tell what national markets will reflect as popular demand drives the invisible hand.

Real investment seekers know that the ascendant markets of the future are places where men keep their wallets under their shirts and women put sewing needles in their purses to thwart thieves Bugs Bunny style.

That's why in the coming months I'm going to give you my knowledge and first-hand accounts of developments that will put you in financial stability.

Quite simply, I'll be a global trendspotter in the field, working for you.

But first I want to tell you about a key element of emerging markets at their most basic level: Microfinance

Learning to Fish

There's an old saying that is true though it may be trite: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."

Whether man or woman, fish or finance, enabling people to make prosperity for themselves is without a doubt a more sustainable solution to poverty than just throwing money and food at the huddled masses.

The south Asian nation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, is the most densely populated country in the world aside from city-states like Singapore and small island nations.

The area is highly prone to monsoon floods and cyclones, and its low-lying river delta geography and lack of preventive infrastructure means that Bangladesh is a perennial disaster zone, like a neverending Katrina situation whose destruction is unimportant to most of the world.

Bangladesh has become one of the world's most important tanker destinations - not because oil companies want to tap Bangladesh's thirst for hydrocarbons but because once those ships are decommissioned, Bangladesh is the world's detritivore.

Men and women, some barefoot, clamor to tear the ships apart after they are intentionally run aground on the country's shores. Watching them strip these 42,000-ton behemoths is like watching thousands of army ants dismember a baby bird that has fallen out of its nest.



The scrap metal they can redeem provides enough money to get by, and even the shards of what is leftover are gleaned by women with baskets. The rusting skeletons of many ships are still visible along the coast, waiting for the next flood to wash them out to sea.

This doesn't seem conducive to market evolution, but despite the dismal situation of many citizens the country has current GDP growth of around 6% per annum.

A major part of Bangladesh's faintly glimmering horizon is Muhammad Yunus, a Vanderbilt University graduate whose Grameen Bank ("bank of the village") has provided small-scale, collateral-free loans to impoverished entrepreneurs.

This model has come to be known as microfinance and is fast becoming the economic umbilical cord of the developing world.

As of December 2005, Grameen had issued loans to 4.76 million borrowers, 96% of whom are women, and achieved an astounding recovery rate of 99.1%.

All this from a simple idea after a major flood in the mid-1970s spawned a native son to help the helpless help themselves.

In time, the empowerment that ownership brings will fertilize the seeds of a healthy middle class, which we know is the key to any mature economy. Look for my international service in the coming months to provide more knowledge about economies like Bangladesh that have learned to fish and will soon be reeling in whoppers.

- Sam Hopkins

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