When a person passes a decade in a position “unlawfully” and then is suddenly removed for that “unlawful” occupation, one tends to ask what he did and how his organisation fared during that passage of time. For Prof Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank in which he served as the managing director, those ten years were the golden time of phenomenal rise and glorious shine. Bangladesh also shone bright with him and Grameen Bank.
Set aside the fact that it was the deeds during that decade that actually caught the attention of the wider world and eventually brought Nobel to the country, Grameen Bank became a model to be emulated in 40 countries — from China to America, from Bolivia to India — across the globe to set millions of impoverished people free from the yoke of poverty. Millions of faceless people suddenly got their faces back as human beings. For once, the world had a solution to help the end-of-the-line people come out of poverty.
And with the transformation of Prof Yunus, whom the international community regards as the messiah of the poor, Grameen Bank also shone in its ledgers. If the simple and traditional parameters of banking are applied to measure its progress during that ten years, its achievements were astounding.
For one, Grameen Bank’s deposits increased 20 times; its profits soared to a new height; and the number of its members tripled.
The year 2000 — when, according to Bangladesh Bank, Grameen’s founder Professor Muhammad Yunus exceeded the mandatory retirement age — saw the bank making a profit of only Tk 1.1 crore. The next year, its profits jumped six times.
Since then, there was no looking back for the microfinance bank in terms of profit.
In its history, Grameen Bank posted profits exceeding Tk 100 crore thrice after that period.
The?bank?had deposits of nearly Tk 105 billion and outstanding loans of Tk 68 billion, as of 2010.
The bank stepped into the new millennium with 23.78 lakh members across the country. Their number has tripled to 83 lakh — 97 percent of them women — at the end of the last year.
Its coverage reached great heights during that period. The microcredit institution had 68,467 centres covering 40,225 villages in 2000. It now operates in 83,458 villages with 144,106 centres, covering the whole of Bangladesh.
Grameen Bank doubled its branches in a decade to 2,562 in 2009 from 1,160 in 2000.
Since its inception, the bank has disbursed Tk 622.26 billion.
The bank charged the lowest interest rate — 20 percent — in the sector in Bangladesh, where allegations of charging a lending rate as high as 45 percent are rife.
The bank has not only provided means of livelihood to the country’s poor, but also created jobs for more than 22,000 people by doubling its staff in the last one decade. The majority of its employees are from the poorer section of the society.
The bank and its legendary founder Prof Yunus jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below” in 2006.
The achievement, seen as the best prize for the country since the independence, gave the sector a strong boost at a time when critics started to question the effectiveness of microfinance programmes in Bangladesh as well as other countries across the globe.
The bank received the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize in 2000 awarded by the Indian government and Petersberg Prize four years later by the Development Gateway Foundation of USA.
These followed the Independence Day Award in 1994 and World Habitat Award by Building and Social Housing Foundation in the UK in 1997.
US President Barack Obama conferred Prof Yunus the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour that recognises the awardees’ contribution to the nation and the world, in August 2009.
Prof Yunus’ dedication to lift people out of poverty brought him more than 110 awards including the Bayreuth Leadership Award 2009, SolarWorld Einstein Award 2010, PICMET Award 2009, Gold Medal of Honor Award, USA 2009, Golden Biatec Award 2009, Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service 2009, Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book Prize 2009, World Affairs Council Awards, California 2008, Global Humanitarian Awards 2008, and RED CROSS Gold Medal 2007.
The long list also includes Seoul Peace Prize 2006, Global Citizen of the Year Award 2006, King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award 2000, and Sydney Peace Prize 1998.
Yunus’ microcredit concept of giving small loans to the poorest of the poor without any collateral in an exception to conventional banking methods, has given birth to thousands of similar organisations in Bangladesh as well as other countries across the world.
The Grameen Bank model has been applied in 40 countries around the globe. It was first replicated in Malaysia in 1986.
In January 2008, Grameen America opened its doors to underserved people, who do not have access to banks and mainstream financial institutions in the world’s biggest economy.
Although a new player in the domestic microfinance industry, Grameen America saw considerable growth in the first year. It disbursed more than $350,000 in micro-loans and registered more than 165 borrowers in the first three months.
Grameen America opened a branch in Omaha, Nebraska in 2009, making it the first microfinance institution in Omaha and Grameen America’s first operational branch outside New York City.
It also opened two additional branches in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn in January, 2010. All the branches have witnessed rapid growth in the short period of their operation, according to Grameen America that has more than 5,000 borrowers.
Washington-based Grameen Foundation supports microfinance institutions in countries including India, China, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bolivia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, the United States of America, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Yemen, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
The Grameen Bank model continues to be replicated around the globe, despite the fact that Bangladesh Bank relieved Yunus of the post of managing director of Grameen Bank on claims that his reappointment to the position was not done in line with the laws that govern the microcredit organisation — a decision that stunned his countless admirers across the world.
Courtesy of The Daily Star