Say economists, Yunus admirers; US embassy ‘deeply troubled’ by move
Economists with huge policy-making experience denounced the way the government decided to remove Prof Muhammad Yunus from the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Bank.
Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, and Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the move will send a negative signal to the country’s microcredit sector.
US Ambassador in Dhaka James Moriarty pressed the Bangladesh government to treat Yunus with respect, and the embassy yesterday said it was “deeply troubled” by the attempt to remove him, reported AFP.
Friends of Grameen, a voluntary association established under the French law, denounced the attempt to remove Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Yunus. The announcement made by the new chairman of Grameen Bank is without enforceability, it said in a statement.
The association termed the new development a renewed and immediate threat to Grameen Bank as an independent institution.
Noted economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud said the leadership change of Grameen Bank should have happened in a more decent and appropriate way with due respect and courtesy to the man who founded the bank.
Prof Wahiduddin, who was a teacher at Dhaka University, said a lot of things are at stake here, the image of Grameen Bank at home and abroad, the self-esteem of its thousands of employees, and the confidence of its numerous borrowers. This is after all a financial institution, and about two-thirds of its revolving fund for microcredit comes from the savings of the poor group members, he said.
“Nobody would like to create a crisis of confidence in the country’s microcredit sector that serves two crore poor borrowers. This is a matter that needs to be handled with more care and sensitivity,” he said.
Hossain Zillur Rahman
Former adviser to a caretaker government Hossain Zillur Rahman raised several questions: Who has gained and who has lost in this move? Have the beneficiaries of microcredit gained? Has governance improved?
“The answers to these questions are rather negative,” said Zillur.
“He [Yunus] is a respected person across the world,” he said, adding that he sees lack of open-mindedness in the way the issue was dealt with.
He also questioned the intent of the Bangladesh Bank letter. It was issued from a controlled mindset rather than from the good governance angle, he said.
“I appeal to the government to see the mater in a broader line considering the image of the country, the poor, and good governance,” he added.
Economist Debapriya Bhattacharya termed the move unfortunate but not totally unexpected.
The transition, which is an administrative issue has now become a legal one, Debapriya said. And possibly, it is not the end of it, he added.
“The hostile nature of transition may affect Grameen Bank’s performance as the borrowers may decline to pay back loans, and withdraw their savings,” he said.
“It is going to send negative signals to other microfinance institutions involved in poverty alleviation. As a result the government policy of accelerated poverty reduction may get a negative shock,” he added.
He said in the global arena where Bangladesh is praised for its contribution to microcredit innovation, it will create a confusion to say the least.
“I wish we could find a way for Grameen Bank to institutionally continue to draw from Prof Yunus’ experience, wisdom, and image,” he added.
Friends of Grameen
Friends of Grameen in a statement said, “The government-led actions have increasingly been legally groundless over the last few days, and Friends of Grameen will keep monitoring the situation closely and continue to advocate for a lawful and fair treatment of Grameen Bank and Professor Yunus, as their contribution to the world is unique and ultimately belongs to the poor of Bangladesh and beyond.”
In eyes of politics
BNP yesterday said getting the Nobel Prize has turned out to be a trouble for the microcredit pioneer.
“The present government could not tolerate Muhammad Yunus from the very beginning, and they [the government] defamed the country by defaming him, who brought unprecedented honour for the country,” said Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, senior joint secretary general of BNP.
“His removal from the bank is nothing but an ill-motivated decision. The government disrespected the country by insulting the Nobel laureate,” he added.
Workers Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon in his reaction said there had been complaints against Prof Yunus at the international level, and after reviewing the allegations the government made the decision.
“There is no problem with the removal, if it is done legally. The Bangladesh Bank has also said that he should not stay as the managing director of the bank,” said Menon, a top level leader of ruling Awami League-led grand alliance.
Courtesy of The Daily Star