Sunday, December 10, 2023

Yunus blamed to shift focus

Claims his centre about WB loan cancellation
Yunus Centre, which promotes the work of Prof Muhammad Yunus, yesterday said the Nobel laureate is being blamed for the World Bank’s fund cancellation to turn people’s attention away from the real issue.
The World Bank cancelled its loan for the Padma bridge project, saying it had proof of a corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and individuals, the centre added.
“The real issue is being published in newspapers every day. The World Bank has brought up corruption charges. They are saying that they have credible evidence in their hands. Bangladesh will have to conduct the probe.
“It will not be easy to turn people’s attention away by creating unfounded stories,” the centre said in a 29-page statement based on frequently asked questions in the media and other platforms.
The centre voluntarily responded to various questions and criticisms about Grameen Bank, 54 associated companies and Prof Yunus, which are being aired at various platforms and media at present.
Many anti-Yunus figures in the country, including those from the ruling party, raised questions about the role of the microcredit pioneer when the Washington-based ender cancelled its $1.2 billion funding for the Padma bridge project in June this year.
The critics blamed Yunus for the WB loan cancellation as he has close relations with influential figures, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Yunus Centre said even if he had good connections with powerful and influential figures, international decisions did not depend on those good relations.
“A $3-billion project will not come to a halt because of his unreasonable demand, no matter how big figure Prof Yunus is or what good relations he has with influential figures. Such stories have been spread to turn away people’s attention from the real issue.”
It said many were coming up with harsh criticism on the basis of imaginary information, which could be happening because of lack of information. As a result, people are being misled.
The step to turn Grameen Bank into a government institution had been taken during the rule of the present government. In the past, no other governments, including the Awami League-led government in 1996-2001, made such claims, it added.
The centre said the bank had been functioning as a private bank since 1990. Past perceptions have been overturned through a recent higher court order and it is now said that Grameen Bank is a statutory organisation.
Grameen Bank has been out of control of the government since 1990 through a change to the Grameen Bank Ordinance. But the finance ministry, Bangladesh Bank, external auditors or any other party raised no question.
At present, members-borrowers own 97 percent of Grameen Bank, while the rest 3 percent is owned by the government.
Although Grameen Bank has been paying dividend since 2006, Prof Yunus or his colleagues did not take any dividend from the bank as they own no share in the bank. They only get salaries from the bank, it added.
Questions have been raised whether Prof Yunus violated laws by holding on to the post of managing director and by accepting salaries and other benefits beyond the retirement age of 60.
The centre said through a change to the ordinance in 1990 the power to appoint the managing director of Grameen Bank was vested with the board of directors, subject to the central bank approval.
When the central bank approved the reappointment of Dr Yunus in 1990 it did not mention in the approval letter the retirement age of Prof Yunus as managing director. But in 1999, the board decided that he would continue to hold the post until the board decided otherwise.
In 2002 when the central bank assessed the re-inspection report it also considered the issue of objection to the appointment of managing director as a settled issue, said the centre. At the time the age of Prof Yunus was 61 years six months.
“Is it his fault for holding the post for 11 years since then? Is it the fault of those who appointed him? Or is it fault of the central bank for its consent that gave acceptability to the appointment? It has to be settled,” the centre asked.
It also said Prof Yunus did not own a single share in the 54 companies he had set up. He also does not own share into Grameenphone, which is owned by Telenor, Grameen Telecom, a not-for-profit and thousands of share-holders.
It said Prof Yunus earned a lot foreign currency every year through his speeches at various conferences and organisations and gets royalty from sales of his books translated in various languages and for other awards.
Any Bangladeshi citizen enjoys income-tax free facility if he brings his income earned abroad through proper banking channel and includes them on the income tax return every year. Thus, legally his income from overseas sources is tax-free.
It said since he turned 60 in June 29, 2000, Prof Yunus took as salaries and other benefits worth Tk 52.94 lakh until May 12, 2011 from Grameen Bank for working as managing director of Grameen Bank. He took home Tk 38.82 lakh after paying the house rent and 7.5 percent of the basic salaries as maintenance fee.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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