Tells The Daily Star it’s not wise to amend law to ensure govt control
Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has warned that Grameen Bank could run into deep trouble if the government amends the law to take control of the microfinance bank founded by him.
“If those amendments [proposed by the review committee] come and the government penetrates the bank, it will not survive very long,” Prof Yunus said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, the first after his resignation from Grameen Bank as managing director this month.
“I’m anxious about its safety,” he said.
Yunus said there should not be any attempt to amend the 1983 ordinance that governs the microfinance bank unless it is recommended by the board.
A government-appointed review committee has recently suggested amendments to the Grameen Bank ordinance, even though it found no financial irregularities in the operation of the bank.
Yunus’ comments underline a common concern that Grameen Bank would flounder without Yunus at the helm.
His resignation came after he lost final appeals in the Supreme Court against his dismissal by Bangladesh Bank citing violation of the bank’s retirement rules.
The government should listen to the demands of its 83 lakh borrowers who effectively own 96.5 percent of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation if it really wants to change the ordinance, Yunus said.
During the interview, the 70-year-old banker to the poor contested a series of misconceptions about the organisation he established three decades ago.
“Some think that Prof Yunus owns this bank and is earning a lot of money out of it. I say no, I do not own a single share in the bank. I am just an employee.”
Prof Yunus rubbished the government’s claim that Grameen is a government bank.
“To call it a government bank, it has to be owned by the government as the majority shareholder. Even in private banks, the government may have some shares. It does not make a private bank a government bank,” he said.
Yunus criticised the review committee for not visiting the Grameen Bank headquarters or meeting its staff or members before making such a report.
“During the review, the committee members did not visit Grameen Bank. They did not visit branches of Grameen Bank to see what Grameen Bank is. They did not meet the borrowers of Grameen Bank. Maybe some of them individually met some borrowers in the past,” Yunus said.
“They did not talk to the staff of Grameen Bank. The committee talked to me for an hour when I went to them and answered a few questions. Additionally, they talked to the deputy managing director for a few minutes,” he said.
Yunus said the committee members had preconceived notions and perceptions about the bank.
“Based on their perceptions they made the recommendations. It was very unkind to give such a big task to them. It is extremely unkind for Grameen Bank to receive those recommendations. After all, we should not take Grameen Bank so lightly.”
The microfinance pioneer said the committee has insulted the board by branding it as a rubber-stamp body. “The nine directors sitting on the board are elected in a four-tier process. Each of them has to be an outstanding person.”
Courtesy of The Daily Star