Yunus fears for Grameen Bank futureAgence France-Presse . Dhaka
Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus on Wednesday expressed fears that the bank he founded 30 years ago to put his concept of microfinance into practice would be taken over by the Bangladesh government.
Yunus has repeatedly clashed with Bangladeshi authorities and last year he was removed as head of the Grameen Bank, which is credited with lifting millions of people out of poverty through offering small ‘microfinance’ loans.
The government set up
a commission earlier this month to review the ownership of the bank and of 54 related social businesses that are still headed by Yunus.
‘I believe without doubt that Grameen Bank’s future will be endangered if the government raises its role in the bank by changing its legal structure,’ Yunus said in a statement.
‘I am now extremely worried about the possibility of Grameen Bank being taken into government control. I fear even to anticipate the course that Grameen Bank will take if it is made a government institution.’
Yunus is seen as one of the world’s leading anti-poverty activists and his sacking from Grameen Bank, apparently on the orders of the government, sparked widespread international anger.
Three weeks ago, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, heaped praise on Yunus during a visit to Dhaka and called for Grameen Bank’s work to not be undermined as it had helped millions of women.
Supporters say Yunus’s removal was due to envy from the government and came after Yunus previously hinted at joining politics to break a logjam in the country’s bitterly divided political system.
The government’s commission is expected to look into changing the structure of the profitable network of ventures that include Grameen Bank’s multi-billion-dollar stake in Grameenphone.
‘Has Grameen Bank committed any major anomalies that required (the government) to set up this probe?,’ said Yunus, who was jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with the bank. ‘I am saddened at hearing the news.’
Yunus added that borrowers currently owned 97 per cent of the bank with three per cent owned by the government.
Microfinance loans, which have spread through the developing world, help bring self-sufficiency to many rural families by providing money from small business ventures.
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