Yunus’s forex earnings
Cabinet approves amendments to GB lawMustafizur Rahman
The Cabinet on Thursday directed the Internal Resources Division to ascertain whether or not Grameen Bank’s founder and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus had brought home foreign currencies as ‘wage earner’ and enjoyed tax exemption during his tenure at the bank.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued the directive while presiding over the weekly meeting of the Cabinet at the secretariat.
The Cabinet also approved a draft proposing amendments to the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983 to ‘reduce the power of the bank’s board and give more authority to its chairman in appointing the managing director of the micro-credit organization’, said officials.
‘The Cabinet has directed the Bangladesh Bank and Financial Institutions Division to inform it of the total amount of salaries and other allowances that Professor Muhammad Yunus received as Grameen Bank’s managing director for the period beyond the approved age limit of 60,’ Cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told
reporters after the meeting.
The Bangladesh Bank removed Yunus as managing director of Grameen Bank on March 2 last year when he turned 71 on the ground that he was past the retirement age of 60.
The finance ministry, as per the directives, will now verify whether the salaries and other allowances for the extended period were given in accordance with the rules and regulations as the Supreme Court had declared that holding of the post of managing director by Yunus became illegal after he exceeded the age of 60, the secretary said.
The Bangladesh Bank has been asked to assist both the finance ministry and the Internal Resources Division in gathering information in this regard.
‘The Cabinet has information that Dr Yunus brought home his earnings abroad in foreign currencies as a wage earner while he was holding the rank of Grameen Bank’s managing director. If so, it now wants to know how much he earned in foreign currencies and whether he was exempted of tax,’ said Musharraf.
He said that the Grameen Bank issue was discussed elaborately during the meeting as the bank and Financial Institutions Division placed the draft of the ‘Grameen Bank (Amendment) Ordinance 2012’ for final approval
The proposed changes to Section 14 of the law will allow the Grameen Bank’s chairman to form a selection committee in consultation with the board for selecting the bank’s managing director.
The chairman will be able to name a three-member panel for the appointment of MD, according to the draft.
The candidate for Grameen Bank MD will now require expertise in the field of rural economy or finance or microfinance instead of background in ‘rural economy and Grameen banking business’.
‘This amendment will make it easier to get the right candidate as the Grameen Bank’s managing director. The appointment to the post is being delayed due to the existing provisions. The scope has been widened now,’ said the Cabinet secretary in reply to a question.
The amendments will come into effect soon after the proclamation of an Ordinance by President Zillur Rahman since the Parliament is not in session, he added.
The prime minister told the meeting that the Grameen Bank had become her enemy although her government did a lot for the welfare of this bank, said a minister.
Referring to Yunus’ position abroad, Muhith asked all to keep in mind that Bangladesh was not an isolated country, while livestock minister Abdul Latif Biswas underlined the need for framing a strong law to regulate the micro-finance organisation.
A Cabinet member had reportedly suggested in an earlier meeting that Yunus’s tax file should be scrutinized to get a correct picture of his assets and to ascertain their sources as well.
Finance minister AMA Muhith told the weekly Cabinet meeting on May 7 that the government had taken no action against the operations of the Grameen Bank, but removed Yunus from the organisation for ‘illegally holding the post of managing director’.
He made the remark in reference to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s statement in Dhaka that the Bangladesh government should not do anything that will undermine the Grameen Bank and its successes.
The origin of Grameen Bank can be traced back to 1976 when Yunus launched a research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system, without taking any collateral, that targets the rural poor, especially women. In October 1983 the Grameen Bank Project was transformed into a bank by government legislation.
The Bangladesh Bank and Yunus are now engaged in a legal battle in the highest court of the country.
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