Yunus unwilling to be WB chief

Thanks PM for proposal; says he would rather head ‘World Social Business Bank’ in future
Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus has said he is not interested in taking the helm of the World Bank, as he wants to dedicate his life to social business.
In a statement issued yesterday, he, however, thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for proposing his name for the WB presidency. He described the proposal as “an unexpected good news”.
The microcredit pioneer also said the prime minister’s proposal and description of his qualifications for the job made clear that the impressions she previously had about him and Grameen Bank no longer existed.
Earlier on February 22, Hasina requested the visiting European Parliament delegation that the EU put forward Yunus’s name for the top position at the Washington-based anti-poverty lender.
Robert Zoellick, the incumbent president of the World Bank, will step down at the end of his five-year term on June 30.
In his statement, Yunus said that he had been a regular critic of the World Bank for its policies and programmes. His criticism also included the fact that this bank’s top position is always reserved for an American citizen. “But I never had any interest in stepping out of the work that I have dedicated my life to, to take up the highest responsibility of the World Bank.”
The Grameen Bank founder said that in 1995, the then US president Bill Clinton had requested him to be the WB president, but he declined the offer, saying he would rather like to concentrate on his own work.
Yunus also mentioned that in 2005, the then prime minister Khaleda Zia had wanted to propose his name as secretary general of the United Nations. When her office approached him for his consent, he conveyed his thanks to the prime minister and said he should instead be allowed to continue with his work.
In the statement yesterday, Yunus expressed hope there would be a “World Social Business Bank” sometime soon, and if requested, he would take the presidency of that bank with great pleasure no matter what his age might be then.
Below is the full text of Prof Yunus’s statement:
On February 22, 2012, Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a very important proposal about me to the visiting European Union’s parliamentary delegation. She proposed that the EU should put forward my name as a candidate to become the next President of the World Bank. She also presented a strong statement regarding my competence for this job to the EU delegation. Since then, there has been a lot of animated discussion about this proposal in the media.
This proposal was an unexpected good news for me. I would like to sincerely thank the Honourable Prime Minister for the kind gesture that she has shown by requesting to propose my name for the top job in such a prestigious and influential global institution.
Another special reason for me to be happy on hearing this good news is that this proposal itself, and the generous list of my qualifications for the job that the Honourable Prime Minister presented to the delegation, make clear that the impressions she previously had about me and Grameen Bank no longer exist. Now I am hopeful that the government’s policy towards the Grameen Bank and me will be in line with the Prime Minister’s latest position. This will remove a huge burden of pain and worry from me, also from many others in the country.
When the Honourable Prime Minister’s proposal was published in the media, many came forward expressing their strong support for the proposal. Honourable US Ambassador assured that the US Government would give special consideration to such a proposal, if I agree to be considered for the position. I would like to thank the US Ambassador and all others who supported the proposal, for their confidence in me.
I never thought of taking up the top job of the World Bank or any other such multi-lateral institutions. I have been a regular critic of the World Bank for its policies and programs. My criticism also included the fact that this Bank’s highest post is always reserved for an American citizen. But I never had any interest in stepping out of the work that I have dedicated my life to, to take up the highest responsibility of the World Bank.
In the past I found myself at the centre of a similar discussion about WB top job. In 1995, President Bill Clinton had invited me to the Oval Office. Among other issues, he discussed the role of the World Bank and asked for my advice. Then he said that a new president was to be appointed for World Bank and asked whether I had any interest in this. I earnestly requested him to allow me to concentrate on my own work. Later, I gave a description in my autobiography “Banker to the Poor” of an interesting interview with an irritated American journalist, after my name was mentioned in the press as a possible World Bank president.
I was asked by the journalist, what steps would I take after becoming President of the World Bank. Sensing his negative feeling about the proposal, I told the journalist that my first step would be to move the headquarters of The World Bank from Washington D. C. to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The journalist was shocked at my response.
President Clinton appointed James D. Wolfensohn as the President of the World Bank. Mr. Wolfensohn probably was not aware of the conversation I had with President Clinton. After taking up his position at the World Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn offered the second highest job in the World Bank, the position of one of the Managing Directors at the Bank. I could not accept it either, for the same reason.
In late 2005, the then Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia decided to nominate me for the position of the Secretary General of The United Nations. I was approached for my consent. According to the UN convention, this post was to go to an Asian in the coming term. A few European and Asian countries were encouraging me to get interested in the position. When approached for my consent by the office of the Prime Minister, I conveyed my thanks to the Honourable Prime Minister for her kindness in wanting to nominate me for this post and requested her to let me continue with my work. The Prime Minister’s office followed up with the request a number of times on this matter. But I could not change my mind.Those who are feeling encouraged by the present proposal from the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, may become disappointed with me that I am not giving importance to such a big opportunity for the country. I am requesting them to consider my situation and have sympathy for my position.
All my life, I have dedicated myself to do things in my own way, and do things which I thought important for me to do. Making the world aware of the potential of social business, the successful implementation of social business, making the next generation across the globe optimistic about the future of humanity and encouraging them to take the leadership in creating a new, and better world, is the work that I am involved in. I want to remain completely focused to these tasks. I hope some time soon, there will be a “World Social Business Bank” and this bank will have an important role in solving the fundamental economic, social and environmental problems faced by the world today. When this bank is created, if someone requests me to take the Presidency of the bank, I’ll accept that responsibility with great pleasure, no matter what my age will be at that point of time.

-With The Daily Star input

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