Move to amend GB ordinance undemocratic

Ex-adviser tells seminar
The government’s move to amend the Grameen Bank ordinance is “undemocratic” as it does not represent the opinions of the bank’s majority shareholders, former adviser to a caretaker government Dr Akbar Ali Khan said yesterday.
“Ninety-seven percent stake in the Grameen Bank is owned by poor women. So the government should consider their opinions,” he told a seminar at the Jatiya Press Club.
His comment came nearly a week after the cabinet approved a plan to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance, 1983 to give more power to its chairman to pick the bank’s managing director.
The post fell vacant after Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus was forced to step down as its chief executive by the Bangladesh Bank in May last year.
Akbar said there was a contradiction between government documents and the statements of public officials. “The sixth five-year plan says that microcredit played an important role in the socio-economic development of the country. But government officials claim that it had no role in the development of the country.”
During her tenure as prime minister between 1996 and 2001, Sheikh Hasina also praised the role of microcredit at the global level, he noted.
The former cabinet secretary expressed bafflement over why the government was so much concerned about microcredit now.
He said Grameen Bank (GB) was not in a bad shape in terms of economics. He thought the interest rates charged by the microlender were much lower than those of the state-run banks.
“For example, although data from Bangladesh Krishi Bank shows that it charges only 10 percent interest rates, if we calculate the money and time people need to spend to get the loans, then we will find that Grameen Bank’s interest rates are much lower,” he mentioned.
Expressing concern over the government’s move, borrower members of the bank said the proposed amendment would enable the government-appointed chairman to choose the managing director of the bank.
“We will decide the appointment of the managing director for our bank, as we own nearly 97 percent shares of the bank,” said Rozina Begum, a borrower member of the GB.
She urged the government to refrain from amending the ordinance as it would deprive its real owners of their role in managing the institution.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened by the government’s initiative to amend the ordinance,” said Asif Nazrul, a professor of law at Dhaka University.
He called on the president not to sign the amendment for the betterment of poor women and overall development of the country.
Salma Khan, a former ambassador and women rights activist, said the GB had played an important role in women’s empowerment. It had especially given them a voice in decision-making, she noted.
She warned that if the government controlled the bank, it would disrupt women’s empowerment and make the future of its 85 lakh members uncertain.
The national executive committee of “Grameen Bank Rokkha o Durjon Protirodh Kendra” hosted the seminar, chaired by its president M Munir-Uz-Zaman.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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