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Govt wants to grab micro-bank: founder

Nobel laureate says new rules threaten micro-lender's future

Muhammad Yunus at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in 2009
  • Bangladesh
  • August 3, 2012
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Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus said yesterday he was “shocked” after learning the world-renowned micro-finance organization he created, Grameen Bank, has been placed under new rules.

He said the move confirmed his suspicions that the government was trying to take it over.

Hours after a cabinet meeting confirmed the new regulations, which give greater powers to the government-appointed chairman of the board, Yunus said he had foreseen the changes after recent disagreements with them.

“Now my apprehension has started to translate into reality,” he said, adding the decision would contribute to denying the poor a stake in the bank. “I am extremely sorry that we could not be successful in forestalling this process.”

The chairman of Grameen Bank is responsible for choosing the managing director, a position Yunus held until his removal early last year. His age and an investigation into the bank were cited as reasons for the decision.

Yunus, 72, is 12 years older than the compulsory retirement age for bankers in Bangladesh. Cabinet Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told journalists yesterday that the government has directed the Finance Ministry to examine the legality of Yunus retaining a position at Grameen Bank, receiving a salary and benefits after retirement age.

But Yunus believes his ousting was politically motivated and has argued that he wants a smooth transition for the bank, which would guarantee that it does not become a political tool to be abused by the government.

Since threatening to start a political party in late 2006, Yunus has been targeted by the government with court cases accusing him of transferring funds illegally to another organization - a charge the donor itself denied - and of overcharging a phone customer of Grameen Phone.

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