Nobelist Yunus Says Bangladesh Threatens Grameen Bank’s Autonomy

Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize- winning microfinance pioneer, said Bangladesh’s government is trying to oust him as managing director of Grameen Bank in an attempt to take control of the institution.

“Our government feels that it would like to take control of the bank by getting into the bank and trying to get me to step down in an aggressive way,” Yunus said in comments delivered via video link today at a microcredit conference in Washington. “We hope we can survive and keep the character of the bank and keep the independence of the bank.”

A Bangladesh court today delayed a decision on a petition filed by Yunus, 70, aiming to block his removal, lawyer Kamal Hossain said in a telephone interview from Dhaka. Bangladesh’s central bank, which is also the country’s financial regulator, sought to relieve Yunus of his duties, citing non-compliance with its rules, the Financial Times reported on March 3.

Grameen sought legal advice after its government-appointed chairman said Yunus had been removed, according to a March 2 e- mail statement from Jannat-E Quanine, a Grameen spokeswoman. Yunus has been at odds with the government over allegations that he misappropriated funds meant for the bank.

Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in founding Grameen, breached Bangladesh retirement norms by continuing to head the lender beyond age 60, K.M. Abdul Wadood, general manager for banking regulation and policy at the central bank, said on March 1.

“We have written to Grameen Bank that Muhammad Yunus can no longer continue to be the managing director,” Wadood said in a telephone interview last week. “Grameen Bank is bound to follow our instructions.”

Bangladesh’s government owned 5 percent of Grameen Bank as of January, with the rest held by borrowers, according to the lender’s website.

Poorest of the Poor

Grameen Bank provides credit to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh without any collateral, reaching 97 percent of villages and 8.35 million borrowers in Asia’s poorest nation, according to its website.

The company extends so-called microcredit, based on the view that credit should be seen as a human right and that loans should be extended based on people’s potential rather than the collateral they possess, according to the website.

To contact the reporters on this story: Meera Louis in Washington at mlouis1@bloomberg.net; Ruth David in Mumbai at rdavid9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net; Philip Lagerkranser at lagerkranser@bloomberg.net

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