New Film: “Caught in Micro debt”

Poor villagers in BangladeshOn Tuesday November 30. our new film has world premiere. Watch it here (from 30/11 evening)

Give the poor a small loan - a so-called microloan so they can start a small business and lift them out of poverty.

For decades the Nobel leureates, Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank has been hailed for giving the poor a small micro loan to lift them out of poverty. The system has been copied all over the world.

But does microloans really help the poor and why did the Norwegian aid agency, Norad who donated millions of Dollars to Grameen Bank kept numerous documents secret ?

The film crew travelled extensively in Bangladesh meeting scores of poor micro loan takers and economists and development researchers like Jonathan Morduch, David Roodman, Milford Bateman and Thomas Dichter tells another side of the glamorous story on Microcredit.

The documentary is the Norwegian version of an international edition that will be available in the beginning of January.

52 Responses to “New Film: “Caught in Micro debt””

  1. ARAFAT says:

    i wanna see.

  2. [...] and Mexico (Compartamos). For details of  how to obtain the English language version DVD,  visit here. //OBSTART:do_NOT_remove_this_comment var [...]

  3. Milford Bateman says:

    Great article in the website where the film will be seen. From what I have seen of the documentary already, it will be a fine companion piece to it. Finally, Tom Heinemann is showing to a wider public the downsides that many of us working in local economic development have seen for so many years, and argued against with very little success in the face of the powerful microfinance juggernaut. Merely because we can find ‘some’ small benefit from microcredit in the case of a few individuals – the ‘role models’ - does not automatically equate to microcredit being a ‘good intervention’ per se, anymore than would a claim by some gamblers after having finally won the jackpot that gambling is a ‘good intervention’ for the poor to escape their poverty. Like gambling, in fact, we know that most gamblers generally do not do very well, and most actually become worse off over time through their gambling. This is why we do not recommend gambling as a way out of poverty. Yet we do unthinkingly recommend a form of gambling, a microcredit, as the way out of poverty. But it is only by focusing upon the carefully selected handful of winners that the microfinance industry has been able to convince so many people that microcredit actually addresses poverty, rather than it being a very modest anti-poverty program suitable for the tiny few individuals with a good business idea, which is what it really is and should be classified as.

    When we look deeper, as many of us have done working in local economic development for many years, as opposed to working on theoretical economic models and mathematical equations, we simply can’t find any real improvement in those countries, regions and localities generously supplied with microcredit. What we tend to find instead are simply lots and lots of poor and now over-indebted individuals (mis)sold on the idea that they would be able to make an income-generating project work in a locality almost always over-crowded with such simple easy-entry projects for many years. When I started out in local economic development we were told it was wholly wrong to encourage the poor into business if we did not honestly know they had a good chance of success and also offered them extensive help. Remember, we were told, failure in business for the modestly wealthy generally means easily picking oneself up and trying again: failure for the poor too often means being wiped out completely adn forever. And for those taking a microcredit just to buy a few items of food or clothing or shelter in order to survive until the next week, or until they get their next microcredit, the microfinance industry all too often represents a dangerous decent into microdebt peonage, not least thanks to high interest rates. This is what we are seeing today in Andhra Pradesh state in India, of course, as many of us have long warned would be the inevitable end result of its microcredit bubble.

    Finally, I know many will argue that using anecdotes in the documentary to illustrate a particular story is unscientific. My own view is that the huge microfinance industry we have today essentially arose on the back of brilliant PR, an ideological imperative (the poor must get themselves out of poverty, and please do not disturb the wealthy) and a couple of totally unrepresentative stories (and some stories that were out and out false - the story of Sufiya Begum in Jobra village being the obvious one), so it cannot justifiably complain now when it stands exposed by the very same technique – if you live by the anecdote, you die by the anecdote.

  4. Arman says:

    how possible????

  5. DAUD says:

    we know about his dishonesty from very beaning. now its proved on the earth.

  6. fugstar says:

    Developmentia is like dementia, but with foreign donors.

    Lets hear it for all the people stuck in debt traps because of the vanity and lazy thinking of the ‘philanthropics’ of this world, who never refrain from throwing inappropriate ‘lifelines’ their way.

    The alternate views of MF have been known in Bangladesh for a long time, through experience, but for certain reasons its not in the interests of the development industry to shoot it down. After all bill clinton lobbied for this. Aaah that subaltern smile.

    makes us feel good.

    I think Grameen should make a video response to the more personal allegation though. We should have more information.

  7. Raj says:

    So bad that Dr!!!???. Yunus is bluffing the poor people in the name of Micro Credit!!! it should be stooped immediately and he should be severely punished for this.

    People of Bangladesh, wake up, its time.

  8. Tareq bin Ekram says:

    Actually this kind of miscreant must be hung in font of native other NGO founder i.e BRAC, ASA etc to make them aware ,to be free from corruption like , if it be proven by authentic deed

  9. Rahima Siddique says:

    All those big words like micro credit, micro finance etc. have nothing to do with women empowerment. Grameen Banks is simply sucking out the last drop of blood from the poor people of Bangladesh. Stand up people. Stop the MOHAJON.

  10. Bangladeshi says:

    How he got NOBEL prize? Whats behind his nobel prize? Now Nobel committee should withdraw their prize.

  11. Mohammed Nurul Alam says:

    It is not surprising at all. It is a common culture of our politician, military personal, the burocrates and the teachers that they all trying to alleviate suffering of the poor and thing only for the poor. But the truth of the matter is they are all lier and cheater. So how come we expect something good from this cheats. These munafekeen are destroying our cuture, our belief and causing sufferings. We will have to do something to stop those cheaters and try to do something real just for the poor portion of our society.

  12. Mohammed Nurul Alam says:

    It is not surprising at all. It is a common culture of our politician, military personal, the burocrates and the teachers that they all trying to alleviate suffering of the poor and think only for the poor. But the truth of the matter is they are all lier and cheater. So how come we expect something good from this cheats. These munafekeen are destroying our cuture, our belief and causing sufferings. We will have to do something to stop those cheaters and try to do something real just for the poor portion of our society.

  13. Barik says:

    The people of Bangladesh will not wake up. They are just ignorant and sentimental. Their streets will be flooded with Voters. Yes, Voters Only. They Just Vote and cry out for their National Achievements! “We Own Nobel”. These Asians are always hungry to be positively labeled by white people from The West. If the recognition comes from West, Ooh yes, we are on top of the World as Westerners have evaluated us as Successful.

    They Need Recognition from West. Md Yunus is nothing but a bitter fruit nurtured and publicized by the Developed Countries.

    Is there any interview of the Good Friend of Mr. Younus, Hilary Rodham Clinton in the Documentary regarding this?

    Or she is also unreachable! Is it possible to include an interview of Mr. Clinton in the international Version of the Documentary?

    I think, in the scam not only the Nobel Laureate is involved but also many other white asses from rich donor countries are engaged.

  14. Mithila Majumder says:

    Can anyone refer to any website or anything at all where I can see this film?!

    Everybody knows Yunus is doing something wrong but nobody speaks a word!!

  15. admin says:

    the film is available in Norwegian on this website.

  16. habib1974 says:

    we know that Dr younus is a fraud. because-by investigative repot any holder of microcredit will not prosper. They are loser day by day. In Bangladesh poverty is a problem. Not only Gramin Bank- In Bangladesh Any NGO- Their main Terget Earn of Money (in any cause-like Microcredit, change of life style, for education, womens right developmen, for por women, for child labour). I am a journalist-I think All NGO are Fraud in Bangladesh. I know That (have document) when The donor give money for Bangladeshi (any reason) The NGO’s Terget without any work earn The money. Not only That- In any Project (who needs some of employer) employers they cannot give the approve salary. The NGOs Vacancy Advertise in News paper. although The employers & with NGOs Has a condition- The NGOs will not give the actual salary.
    I think If any donor want to help Bangladesh- They should sudden visit about project.
    One Example- Many Of Donor Donet For Adibasi (minoroties-development). but no development Their. I Think Many Donor Donet minimum 1000 bilion dollar for them. but no development. because NGOs are not real.
    so stop the microcredit. investigation about your donet. please do this. & please punished Mr dr younus.

  17. SHOAIB says:

    If this allegation is truth . I will lost my respect from him. I will known him as sudi mohajon (who take big interest from the poor people on loan money)

  18. [...] Article featured in Flip The Coin ( [...]

  19. Barik says:

    In Bangladesh, The Religious Political Parties are/were very strong and they were from the very beginning were also against any NGO activities.
    From Now On, The rich donors should avoid NGO’s to pour money in these poor countries and involve the GOVT and religious political parties to utilize their money.
    Bangladesh is poor country with a large number of populations who are religious and illiterate at the same time. It is easier for any party to exploit these large numbers of human heads. After every five years these large population just cast their votes to political parties which is also nothing but a scam in the name of democracy.

    Please, consider Flip the Coin-”Democracy” as a crying issue as well. Make documentaries. Show it in the www.

    Still the situation for these poor remains same. They can’t browse internet and read news papers.

    They are divided.

    When divided, it’s easier to rule.

  20. Barik says:

    In many cases these women who took loans from NGO’s handover the loaned money to their Husbands, Sons, Sons in laws and mostly to their male family members with a false hope that their fate will be changed by “ALLAH”.
    In Most cases, this money is then mishandled by the actual users even sometimes they spend this money to participate in gambling in local village fairs. The NGOs know these things and despite knowing (to maximize their profit) they use this phenomenon as an opportunity.
    A man having multiple numbers of wives has better deals. He can use all four of his wives to take loans from these NGOs. When time comes to repay this man just flee leaving his wives behind and remarry somewhere else. There is no one to regulate and to be regulated.
    Bangladesh is a nice place to do “Business”, Great Success” “Cheap Labor”.
    If you stand with a camera by any road side of any part in Bangladesh you will find a large number of interviewee inclined to participate in the interview. They can talk on any topic ranging from “The Gulf War”, “The Iraq-Afghanistan Issue”, “Saddam Hossain-BinLaden- George W.Bush” “National Politics” and so on still they have nothing to eat. They are very “intelligent” as per as Bangladeshi Politicians. These politicians are very much indebted to these illiterate voters.

  21. Barik says:

    Now, it seems Funny:-Bangladesh is a “DEMOCRATIC” Country.
    I remember a time when the then US ambassador Mary Ann Peters Termed Bangladesh Not only as a “Democratic” Country but also she added “Moderate Muslim” Democratic Country.


    Funniest part is that We Bangladeshis admitted this funny title [“Moderate Muslim” Democratic Country] and later started using this funny term to categorize ourselves.

    All these are connected.

  22. Pijush says:

    Dear Mr. Heinemann, thank you very much for the documentary “Caught in Micro-debt” which is the true story in the backward rural area in Bangladesh. I truly appreciate your endeavor. I am familiar with the footages and true stories you documented in the film as I was born in a backward remote area in Bangladesh.

    Dr. Yunus is sucking blood of the poor the same way the ancient “Morals” (land lords) did earlier. I think it will be a first example in the world that a culprit/fraud like Dr. Yunus concoctated his activities to achieve the Nobel peace prize. he should be tried in the local and international courts.
    Thanks again.

  23. Haque says:

    Another irony of microloan is that those who administer it take bribe, many take loan at small interest and then use this cash to earn larger interest from people in vulnerable situation. Banadesh does not have regulation to control loan sharks.

  24. The Indian Crisis is Blamed on Rogue Micro-Finance Companies. Just who are they?

    Maoist party KKW (Karimnagar-Khammam-Warangal) secretary Sudhakar warned MFIs of dire consequences if they do not call it quits. In a statement here on Friday, he said agents and representatives of MFIs are humiliating rural women and insulting their family members because of which several villagers have committed suicide.

    On the other hand, the biggie MFIs shrug off the blame of the present crisis in the industry to “Rogue MFIs. Notice, the biggie MFIs are careful not to name these rogue elements, creating doubts who they are.

    We came across some interesting industry statistics that shed light on plausibility.

    Read More:

  25. [...] Bank to a non-microfinance enterprise. So reports the BBC, based on the findings of a Norwegian documentary, scheduled for release in English in [...]

  26. SPACK says:

    Everyone has an opinion. But when it comes to such serious matters, I regard people innocent unless/until proven otherwise.
    I look forward to seeing the documentary in January. Until then it seems hard to believe that any wrong doing has taken place.

  27. Imran says:

    Is this documentary available anywhere in ENGLISH?

  28. [...] Muhammad Yunus, has been accused of embezzling funds based upon allegations made by a Norwegian documentary filmmaker who has taken a critical look at the whole microcredit [...]

  29. Frost says:

    Any news on the English version, i’m working in this field and would love to show it to my working partners. I’ve seen the org. version. I’m from Denmark so i can understand it. But really needs and English version!

  30. Daniela says:

    Im writing my dissertation on this topic and it would be sooo helpful to watch this documentary in english!!! Does anyone know where i can get it from??

  31. erik says:

    Where is the english version available?

  32. [...] surprised to see that all those comments are almost word-for-word the same arguments as mine. New Film: “Caught in Micro debt” Do some more research on that film and microcredit. As I said, its always to read a wide variety of [...]

  33. TomHeinemann says:

    Dear all.
    Yes, you can get the film in the international version, if you go to
    Click your way through and the film will be send asap.
    Thank’s for all the interesting comments.

  34. TomHeinemann says:

    Please visit Here you can order the film

  35. [...] A few months ago, I wrote a blog post that drew on my experiences as a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia to discuss two points of criticism about microfinance, specifically from Aaron Ausland’s Huffington Post article, “How Microfinance Lost its Soul”. In this second installment, I will attempt to do the same, focusing on the portrayal of microfinance put forth by Tom Heinemann’s controversial documentary, The Micro Debt. [...]

  36. Anders says:

    I think the movie definitely has a great point criticizing why poor people should be better at using loans in a good way than rich people.

    At the same time I think it is too dramatic and not very constructive at all.
    Overall not a great film.

    Read my post about it at:

  37. [...] Today, and in this particular case,  I make an exception. Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” set off a chain events which resulted in a thorough evaluation of the operations of Grameen. And [...]

  38. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  39. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  40. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  41. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  42. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  43. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  44. Shamim Chowdhury says:

    Banker Yunus banking on emotion defying law

    We must give credit to Dr. Yunus for taking micro financing to world stage and branding Bangladesh as the brand owner. He may have not invented the idea but certainly he was able to give it a height which no one was able to do before. Because of his personal connection with Hillary Clinton the then first lady of the most powerful country of the world Dr. Yunus was able to get the world attention. Dr. Yunus got his first world wide media attention during the first micro summit which took place in Washington where our present PM Sheik Hasina co-chaired the summit along with Queen Sofia. First and then all following micro financing summit was compassionately supported by Hillary Clinton therefore Democratic controlled White House.

    Dr. Yunus and Grameen worked across Bangladesh to uplift the fate of the poor of the poorest of the poorest nation on earth. It all started after Dr.Yunus a professor of Chittagong University first ventured his new idea into villagers just outside the CTG University boundary called Jobra. Result was inspiring to Dr. Yunus; he was able to demonstrate the power of small loan to a very small but inspiring group of women to take the fate in their own hand to shape it for better not becoming overnight entrepreneurs but a humble start. Success story of women from villager Jobra went out like bonfire and got attention of local and then international media at length of time.

    Dr. Yunus now has a success story to tell but not much audience other then few media outlet. The country was going through high trouble. It was couple years after the death of Gen. Zia when Gen Ershad claimed the power overthrowing corrupt BNP government of Justice Sattar. In a state wide televised speech, Justice Sattar claims wide spread corruption in his government and asked military to take over, so did Gen Ershad. Suddenly Dr. Yunus saw some light at the end of the tunnel, military marshal law governments civil Finance Minister Abul Mal Muhit, yes readers, ironically it’s the same person who is our current Finance Minister.

    Finance Minister gave an audience to Dr. Yunus and Dr. Yunus was the speaker and as a good orator he was and is Yunus was able to make Muhit understand the value of starting a new bank solely for the poor. Muhit as the Finance Minister was able to get permission of Gen. Ershad to form the Bank name Grameen Bank a bank for the poor. Ershad military regime issued a proclamation establishing the bank and appointed Dr. Mohammad Yunus as it Managing Director, it was 1983 and since then he is the head of this government institution.

    It need to be clear that Grameen Bank unlike many other privately owned NGO is not a private entity but a government entity with autonomy and Dr. Yunus is nothing but government approved Managing Director of the Bank. Success of Grameen Bank is not just the success of its Managing Director Dr. Yunus’s but the government and its shareholders as well. He played a wonderful role of mentoring the organization setting its goal. The story picks up there where Grameen Bank a bank for the poor changed its role of providing free of collateral cheap loan to the poor especially women to high interest loan sharking business.

    A noble cause and idea which started its journey from village Jobra under the stewardship of a young professor Dr. Yunus caught into so-called social business gimmick. Loan to the poor started with no interest climbed to as high as THIRTY percent. Day by day Grameen involved it self into all sorts of profit making business, telecommunication to making so called energy curd and what not. A brand name Grameen paid a hefty price for that as well not just financially but receiving endless criticism. While the poor people Caught into microfinance debt Grameen caught into illegal VOIP business and slapped with hefty punitive fines of hundreds of millions of BDT and loosing its clean image. Some people may say allegation has no base and Dr. Yunus has no relation to those illegal wrongdoings of Grameen Telecommunication. How ever that notion will not be justified and he had to bear the responsibility as Grameen mobile is a part of Grameen family and Grameen receives a huge stash of profit out of it. So if you accept the profit you have to bear the responsibility as well. A Nobel laureate like Dr. Yunus never came up with one word to condemn his organizations wrongdoing but keep tight-lipped. His muted un acknowledging attitude of this grave matter did hurt lot of his supporters as well as rest of the nation. Though this is nothing new from him, he kept mum or talked in favor of military and undemocratic rulers as near as past Gen. Moeenuddin-Fakhruddin government.

    Dr. Yunus who may (not really) claim to the author/owner of this microfinance idea started thinking about Grameen Bank with same obsession. Like many others who rose to power and fame started thinking about him as indispensable and his role as Managing Director as requisite. Probably not just Dr. Yunus but may be many of us started thinking Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank as one and one entity, that thinking process was based on a complete flawed understanding. Unfortunately Dr. Yunus did not play an affirmative role on bringing that notion down but fueled it expediential. A noble idea strangulates to death slowly but surely. A bank that was created to ensure loan to the poor ravenous people of Bangladesh is now hungry it self for fame and ready to play any game.

    Grameen Bank was and is an autonomous government entity though it is not just like much other autonomous body but a special one. If the banking law of the country as well as Grameen Bank’s own employee manual clearly states that all Grameen employees will retire at age 60 then how in the world it is OK for Dr. Yunus to violate that law and say I am indespensible therefore I must stay for life and defy any law.

    Some Yunus supporter might say there are others too who has crossed that age such as PM her self or others in the cabinet. Yes that is true but that is a whole new subject/concept to deal with. Present law of the land doese allow those position holder to continue thier official duty at or above sixty, if you do not like it then go ahead and make effort to change it. But as long the law allows or disallowes, you just have to abide by the rule, period.

    Dr. Yunus in many of his speech talked about lawlessness in our socity and politics but when the time came for him to set the standard he downplayed the law and played his sentiment card and voed to stay in power as long someone is not able to pull him down. During caretaker military rule Dr. Yunus talekd harshly about politicians and their family dinesty and talked about fresh leadership and now when the question comes about new leadership of Grameen Dr. Yunus laughable reply that Grameen will not be able survive without him or there is no one who can assume that responsibility. If so, then it is shame for him that he stayed in that position for cople of deaced but miseurably or mistically failed to create a chain of leadership who can and will take new challenges. Critics say, to keep his tight greep on all matter he never allowed any new leadership capable of running the organization independently around for too long. Any one who happends to be capable will be removed and a person will be replace the position with his approval only. The nine members of the board out of tweleve are selected by Dr. Yunus himself and rest three apponited by the government of Bangladesh. Nine members of the board who has been handpicked by Dr. Yunus has aboslutely no idea whats so ever of how a billion dollar bank like Grameen runs. They are there no more then to act as rubber stamp to go along with Dr. Yunus whim.

    It is unfortunate that a man of his stature will set such a bad precedence and take ill advantage of his position and international connection to pressure law of the land takes a different course to keep him in his position. It is more unfortunate that now he wants keep the nations image hostage and play his imotion card once agin to keep his position.

    It is so childish for him and his lawyer Dr. Kamal Hossain to say that if he was allowed to violated the bank law for ten years then he should not be blamed about it at any letter stage? Does Dr. Yunus mean violation get justified if it was not challenged or corrected in time?

    Are we going to say that recent epoch making judgment of high court on nullifying all military rule of seventies and eighties in Bangladesh and declaring it as illegal occupation of power was wrong judgment as it happened thirty years ago and no one challenged it earlier therefore illegal unconstitutional occupation of power by military rulers was justified!

    High interest Grameen’s micro credit is nothing but unambiguous rape of frail but lucrative financial body of poor of the poorest especially women. Most vulnerable segment of the society is trapped into Grameen’s loan shark landing microfinance policy, calamitous attempt of the poor to escape from local loan shark known as Mohajon to get caught by institutionalized shark loan lender named Grameen is unfortunate and unwanted.

    It’s a farce that the poor of the poorest who need the most low interest finance to change their ill fate are locked into maximum high interest loan up to 30 percent from Grameen while the affluent society gets loan at very low interest some where 12 to 13 percent from commercial banks. Now Grameen might say we are giving loan to someone with no collateral therefore we have to cover our risk. No comments on that as that is a fact, however then question comes then do not call this sort of loan sharking a social enterprise call it what is it!

    In U.S. to often you will get advertisement about car loan or housing loan with bad credit or no credit everyone applies everyone gets credit. Those lenders are known in the U.S. as loan sharking institution and they do not challenge it. If Dr. Yunus also agrees that Grameen does the same then their will be no question but question comes when he claims to be doing business of social just.

    What is Loan Shark: A loan shark is a person or body that offers unsecured loans at high interest rates to individuals, often enforcing repayment by blackmail or threats of violence. Dose that sounds Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank, Yes it dose. Wikipedia Link explains the characteristics of Loan Shark:

    If wants know more about the result of Grameen Loan Sharking business and hide and seek game then go to this link and play the video:

    Watching this video will raise very suspicious question what Grameen and Dr. Yunus wants to hide from getting out. It reminds why Dr. Yunus wrote a personal memo to NORAD asking help to keep this secret, WHY? what he is scared off! Hope one day the poor of the poorest will not about the name of the game.

    Shamim Chowdhury
    Maryland, U.S.A.

  45. [...] all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set [...]

  46. [...] to prevent the “harassment” of small borrowers by debt collectors. Caught in Micro debt, a 2010 documentary by Norwegian journalist Tom Heinemann, turned the spotlight on Yunus and the Grameen Bank, accusing [...]

  47. [...] to prevent the “harassment” of small borrowers by debt collectors.Caught in Micro debt, a 2010 documentary by Norwegian journalist Tom Heinemann, turned the spotlight on Yunus and the Grameen Bank, [...]

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