Govt-Grameen tussle drags on
BARELY a couple of days into the departure of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the government, through the words of the finance minister this time, appears to have once again reiterated their strong and defiant stand on the Grameen Bank issue, apparently in response to Clinton’s stated concerns about the bank and its future during her visit. In fact, it was not just a response, but an emphatic declaration on the part of the finance minister, terming Yunus’s claim that the government was plotting to take over the bank and its subsidiaries ‘rubbish’, claiming that the government had established the bank and the ‘Americans’ and ‘World Bank’ did not provide a single penny, and that a commission to determine the status of Grameen Bank subsidiaries was a ‘must’. For the section of society aware of the various threats to the sovereignty of a developing country like Bangladesh, and various imperialistic ambitions and agendas of global powers and international agencies, the government’s apparent stand can come almost as a refreshing surprise.
However, the surprise is extremely short-lived when one realises that this is the same government that has aligned itself with the US on its so-called ‘global war on terror’, is mulling a Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement with the US and only last month secured a $1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, a sister organisation of the World Bank. The government’s dispute with the Grameen Bank and its founder, defiance of the bank’s powerful international friends and benefactors has unfortunately always been ‘personal’ in nature. Despite the apparent ‘boldness’ on display, such selective defiance, and that too to fulfil parochial needs, can only be politically and diplomatically harmful for the country in the long run.
Meanwhile, whatever reservations one may have over the effectiveness of micro-credit, the operations of the Grameen Bank, or for that matter, the real significance of the Nobel Prize, one cannot deny the fact that Yunus’s recognition in 2008 brought an unprecedented level of global attention to the country and immense amount of respect and recognition for Yunus across the globe. One cannot help but sympathise with the present predicament of the Grameen Bank founder, who has been removed from his position as managing director of bank, and still faces numerous other challenges to his legacy from the government. However, it also becomes pertinent to ask about the degree to which Yunus’s enormous global influence of late has come to the benefit of the people. The country is indeed passing through a very critical phase, not just on the domestic front, but also on the international front, for example, with regards to the numerous unresolved issues with big neighbours India. Given Yunus’s tremendous influence across the globe one is tempted to ask whether even a portion of that ‘influence’ has come of use in resolving, say, Bangladesh’s concerns with regards to the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam or the killing of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians in the Indo-Bangladesh border? If anyone indeed had the power to make an impact on all such issues globally, especially among US policymakers, it would certainly be Yunus.
It is indeed futile and potentially dangerous for the government to pursue a personal issue with Yunus and the Grameen Bank, cloaked in legal and administrative concerns. And if indeed Yunus expects countrymen, and not just his international friends, to be beside him in this struggle, in which he understandably has poor legal standing, then he would also be best-advised to use his enormous influence not just to save his legacy, but to mobilise international opinion in favour of the concerns of the countrymen as well.
comments powered by Disqus