Economist H.I. Latifee spent 1968 through 1973 wandering the eastern hills of Bangladesh trying to figure out why the poor stayed poor. Toward the end, he was joined by fellow economist Muhammad Yunus. Their conclusion: a lack of affordable capital, and hence a lack of entrepreneurship and jobs. Nowadays, Latifee, 60, spends more time on planes, jetting around Asia as managing director of Grameen Trust, the international arm of Grameen Bank, the nonprofit microcredit agency he and Yunus founded in 1983.
Latifee's mission is to duplicate the Dhaka-based bank's success in Bangladesh around the world. He has set up 105 Grameen clones from Burma to Bosnia. They make closely supervised loans, usually of less than $100, to people at the bottom of society to expand such businesses as handicrafts and food-vending.
Latifee argues Grameen's tiny loans do more good than the billions lent by the International Monetary Fund. In the Asia crisis, he says, the IMF "provided support without targeting the poor." With Grameen, that's never an issue.