Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, argues that access to credit is a ‘human right’.
The theory behind this concept is that by providing impoverished people with access to credit they are provided with a means to alleviate poverty. Yunus founded the Grameen Bank for the purpose of helping the poor obtain economic self-sufficiency and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 2006.
By following this example it can also be argued that access to a bank account is a human right.
In an age when we can send spacecraft to Mars and technology is capable of more amazing accomplishments each day it is surely within the grasp of banks to issue law abiding remittance companies a bank account.
As Yunus himself says:
‘By capitalizing on core strengths and knowledge, companies and entrepreneurs can engage in an emerging business model that will enable them to create – and demonstrate – real, sustainable social impact in society.’
In Australia human rights include:
‘… that everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity..’
Most remitters are providing this right. A fair wage might be earnt in Australia but to provide for relations or friends living abroad there has to be an affordable avenue for funds to be sent. Remitters provide the means by which a person living in Australia can send money to other countries to provide ‘an existence worthy of human dignity’. The remittance industry sends more than 10 times the foreign aid of the Australian Government and provides for medicine, education and more. Money is being sent into refugee camps to help desperate people.
The contribution to society remitters facilitate is so significant that Oxfam and other charities are championing the current crisis of de-banking remittance businesses in Australia.
Obviously society and regulators need to be able to know who is safe and who is not. No one wants to see funding going terror organizations and it is imperative to put procedures in place that enable the successful monitoring of the industry. Likewise it should be possible for law abiding citizens to conduct business safely without being negatively impacted by nefarious criminals abusing the system so that the real criminals and terrorists can be easily identified and dealt with.
In a modern society access to social welfare, the tax office and other businesses is either not possible or at best limited for cash transactions. If the government refuses to operate in cash this would surely suggest that laws are needed to enforce their position.
The business strategy which banks currently engage does not cater for individual businesses meaning that well run companies and their dependents are metaphorically experiencing financial ‘collateral damage’ of the war on terror. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission:
‘Human rights are about recognizing and respecting the inherent value and dignity of all people’.
By not providing adequate banking and compliance procedures to an entire industry is the banking industry guilty of abusing human rights? Are we guilty of putting obstacles in the way of providing ‘an existence worthy of human dignity’ by alleviating poverty?
To conclude I would quote Yanus again:
‘My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see thing the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see’.
Banks need to change their mindset and embrace ways to facilitate safe remittance banking.