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Nobelist Yunus Urges Support for Smooth Transition at Grameen

Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus, managing director and founder of Grameen Bank. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Muhammad Yunus, the microfinance pioneer who won the Nobel Peace Prize, is urging a “smooth transition” at Grameen Bank after Bangladesh’s central bank called for his removal as managing director.

“There should be a smooth transition of management leadership from me to the next managing director in a congenial environment,” Yunus, 70, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “I will need the help of all the Bangladeshi people to achieve this. I urge everyone to support the cause of smooth and joyful transition at Grameen Bank.”

A Bangladesh court yesterday delayed a decision on a petition that would block the removal of Yunus, Kamal Hossain, Yunus’ lawyer, 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 March 3.

Yunus and nine directors of the Dhaka-based bank have challenged the Bangladesh central bank’s call in the High Court, according to a statement on March 3 on Grameen Bank’s website. Yunus has been at odds with the government over allegations that he misappropriated funds meant for the bank.

Yunus said yesterday the Bangladesh government is trying to remove him in an attempt to wrest control of the institution.

Government ‘Aggressive’

“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 separately yesterday in comments delivered via video link 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.”

Yunus, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his work in founding Grameen, breached retirement norms by staying at the helm past age 60, K.M. Abdul Wadood, the central bank’s general manager for banking regulation and policy, 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.

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 of borrowers, according to its website.

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

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