World’s notable economist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, prof. Mohammad Yunus announced the concept of reconstruction for the post-pandemic period. In this regard, he wrote in a letter to the International Eurasia Press Fund:
“Dear Umud, Greetings from Dhaka. I hope you are safe and well during the pandemic. I am writing today to send you an op-ed that I wrote “No Going Back” highlighting that the world had been on a disaster path economically, socially, environmentally before the Corona pandemic hit, and we must not under any circumstances return to that world after the pandemic is over, instead build a new and more sustainable world.”
Our friendly relations with Muhammad Yunus date back to the early 2000s. The visit of this famous person to our country in June 2016 was initiated by the IEPF and supported by ADA and UNEC. On the first day of the visit, prof. Mohammad Yunus was officially received by President Ilham Aliyev.
The discussions between Mr President and prof. M.Yunus aimed at promoting the activities of M.Yunus in the country to promote social business and strengthen the principles of social responsibility were a serious challenge for both ministries and various government agencies, as well as civil society and commercial organizations. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’s sincere views on our country, his views on the successful dynamics of social reforms implemented by the Head of State and the First Vice President, and his video appeals met with attention. He never hid his gratitude for the high understanding of the philosophy of social business in Azerbaijan, and always expressed his special attention and interest in Azerbaijan in the international arena. Today, at a time when a new system of world relations is being formed, he asks us to convey to the Azerbaijani reader the ideas that everyone expects from him.
“I would like you to help my article be published in the most popular media outlets in Azerbaijan so that my views can be widely disseminated to the public,” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus wrote in a letter to me.
I would like to remind the readers that Professor Muhammad Yunus has been awarded more than 50 honourary degrees from universities in 20 countries, 112 awards from 26 countries, including state awards from 10 countries. He is one of seven recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom of the President of the United States and the Gold Medal of the US Congress, and one of the 15 most famous “Peace Heralds” of the UN Secretary-General. During his visit to Baku, he was awarded the Supreme Prize of the International Eurasia Press Fund and the Honourary Doctorate of UNEC.
He is the author of the theory of “3 zeros – 0 poverty, 0 unemployment, 0 carbon emissions”, the idea of social business, the theoretical foundations of microfinance. The “Post-Coronovirus Reconstruction Program” addressed to us by prof. M. Yunus is a unique document that states can refer to in the analysis and conceptual parsing of the problems facing the modern world, as well as the future of the world.
Below, we present to our readers the program of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus, which is of great interest in the international arena.
President of the IEPF
Post-Corona Reconstruction Programme—No Going Back
Prof. Muhammad Yunus
The extent of damage that Corona pandemic is causing the world is just mind-boggling. However, despite this massive damage, it offers us an unparalleled opportunity.
Right now the whole world has to address a big question. It is not about how to get the economy running again. Luckily we know the answer. We have gathered good experiences of managing of a recovery process. The big question that we have to answer is: Do we take the world back to where it was before Coronavirus came? Or, we redesign the world? The decision is entirely ours.
Needless to say that the pre-Corona world was not good to us. Until Coronavirus became the news, the whole world was screaming about all the terrible things which are about to happen to the world.
We were literally counting days when the whole planet would be unfit for human existence through climate catastrophe; how we are under serious threat of massive unemployment created by artificial intelligence; how wealth concentration was reaching an explosive level. We were reminding each other that the current decade is the decade of last chance. After this decade all our efforts will bring only marginal results, inadequate to save our planet.
Should we go back to that world? The choice is ours.
Coronavirus suddenly changed the context and calculus of the world. It has opened up audacious possibilities which never existed before. Suddenly we are at the tabula rasa. We can go any direction we want. What unbelievable freedom of choice!
Before we restart the economy we must agree on what kind of economy we want. First and foremost, we have to agree that the economy is a means. It facilitates us to reach the goals set by us. It should not behave like a death trap designed by some divine power to punish us. We should not forget for a moment that it is a tool made by us. We must keep on designing and redesigning it until we arrive at the highest collective happiness.
If at any point we feel that it is not taking us where we want to go, we immediately know that there is something wrong with its hardware or software that we are currently using. All we have to do is to fix it. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying ‘sorry we cannot achieve our goals because our software or hardware will not let us do that’. That would be an unacceptably lame excuse. If we want to create a world of zero net carbon emission, we build the right hardware and software for it. If we want a world of zero unemployment, we do the same. If we want a world where there will be no concentration of wealth, we do the same. It is all about building the right hardware, and the right software. Power is in us. When human beings set their mind to get something done, they just do it. Nothing is impossible for human beings.
The most exciting news is Corona crisis offers us almost limitless opportunities to make a fresh start. We can start designing our hardware and software in an almost clean screen.
Post-Corona Redesigning Must Be Based on Social and Environmental Consciousness
One simple unanimous global decision will help us tremendously: a clear instruction that we don’t want to go back to where we are coming from. We don’t want to jump into the same frying pan in the name of recovery.
We should not even call it a ‘recovery’ programme.
To make our purpose clear, we may call it the ‘reconstruction’ programme. Businesses will be made to play the key role to make it happen. The point of departure for post-Corona reconstruction programme must be putting social and environmental consciousness firmly at the Centre stage for all decision making. Governments must guarantee that not a single dollar would be offered to anyone unless the government is sure that it will bring the maximum social and environmental benefit to society, compared to all other options. All the reconstruction related actions must lead up-to creation of a socially, economically, and environmentally conscious economy for the country, as well as for the world.
Time is NOW
We start with ‘reconstruction’ packages for social consciousness driven plans and actions. We must design our plans right now when we are in the thick of the crisis. When the crisis will be over, there will be a stampede of old ideas and old examples of bailout to rush the actions their way. Strong cases will be made to derail the new initiatives by saying these are untested policies. (When we proposed that the Olympic Games can be designed as social businesses, opponents made the same arguments. Now Paris Olympic 2024 is being designed that way with increasing excitement along the way.) We’ll have to get ready before the stampede begins. Time is NOW.
In this comprehensive reconstruction plan, I propose to give the central role to a new form of business called social business. It is a business created solely for solving people’s problems, without taking any personal profit by the investors expect to recoup the original investment. After original investment comes back all subsequent profits are ploughed back into the business.
Governments will have many opportunities to encourage, prioritize, open up space for social businesses to undertake major redesigning responsibilities. At the same time, Governments should not expect social businesses show up everywhere at the time and size they are needed. Governments must launch their programmes, such as taking care of the destitute and the unemployed through traditional welfare programmes, offering healthcare, reviving all essential services, and supporting all types of businesses where social business options are slow to come forward.
To speed up the entry of social businesses Governments can create Social Business Venture Capital Funds, centrally and locally, encourage the private sector, foundations, financial institutions, investment funds, to create Social Business Venture Capital Funds, encourage traditional companies to become social businesses themselves or take in social business partners, corporates and all businesses may be encouraged to have their own social businesses or create joint venture social businesses with social business partners.
Under the rebuilding programme, governments can finance social businesses to buy up companies, and tie-up with needy companies to transform them into social businesses. The central bank can allow social businesses, like other businesses, to receive financing from financial institutions to invest in the stock market.
There will be so many opportunities arising during the rebuilding process; governments should involve as many social business actors as possible.
Who Are Social Business Investors?
Who are the social business investors? Where do we find them?
They are everywhere. We don’t see them because our existing economic textbooks don’t recognize their existence. As a result, our eyes are not trained to see them. Only recently economics courses are including some discussions on topics like social business, social entrepreneurship, impact investment, non-profit organizations etc as side issues inspired by the global admiration for Grameen Bank and microcredit.
As long as economics remains a science for profit maximization, we cannot rely entirely on it for the reconstruction programme which is based on social and environmental consciousness. The whole strategy would be to enlarge the proportion of social business in the total economy as the economy grows.
The success of a social business will be visible when not only it will grow into a larger percentage of the economy, but also there will be rapid growth in the number of entrepreneurs where same entrepreneurs are doing both types of businesses.
This will signal the beginning of a social and environmental consciousness driven economy.
As soon as government policy starts recognizing the social business entrepreneurs and investors, such entrepreneurs and investors will come forward enthusiastically to play the important social role demanded by the historical opportunity. Social business entrepreneurs are not members of a small do-gooder community. This is a significant global eco-system which includes giant multinational companies, big social business funds, many talented CEOs, corporate bodies, foundations, trusts, with many years of experiences in financing and running global and local social businesses.
When the concept and the experiences of social businesses start receiving government attention many hardcore personal profit makers will be happy to bring out the unexplored part of their talent to become successful social business entrepreneurs and play very valuable social roles at the time of social and economic crises like climate crisis, unemployment crisis, wealth concentration crisis, etc.
People Are Born as Entrepreneurs, Not as Job-Seekers
Reconstruction programme must break a traditional division of work between citizens and the government. It is taken for granted that the citizens’ role is to take care of their families and pay taxes; it is the responsibility of the Government (and to a limited extent of the non-profit sector) to take care of all collective problems, like climate, jobs, healthcare, education, water, and so on. Reconstruction programme should break this wall of separation and encourage all citizens to come forward and show their talent as problem-solvers by creating social businesses. Their strength is not in the size of their initiatives but in their number. Each small initiative multiplied by a big number turns out to be a significant national action.
One problem that the social business entrepreneurs can immediately address will be the problem of unemployment created by the collapse of the economy. Social business investors can get busy with creating social businesses to create jobs for the unemployed. They can also open up the option of transforming the unemployed into entrepreneurs, and demonstrating that human beings are born as entrepreneurs, not as job-seekers. Social businesses can engage themselves in creating a robust health system in collaboration with the government system.
A social business investor doesn’t necessarily have to be an individual. They can be institutions, such as investment funds, foundations, trusts, social business management companies. Many of these institutions know very well how to work in friendly ways with the traditional owners of the companies. Out of the desperation and urgency of the post-Corona situation, a right call from a government can create a surge of activities which were never known before. This will be the test of leadership to show how a world can be inspired to be re-born in completely unknown ways, coming from the youths, middle-aged, and the old, men and women.
Will Have No Place to Hide
If we fail to undertake a social and environmental consciousness driven post-Corona programme we will be heading for a catastrophe that is many times worse than what corona brought in. We can hide in our homes from Coronavirus, but if we fail to address the deteriorating global issues, we’ll not have any place to hide from the angry Mother Nature and the angry masses all around the world.