No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

So now we hear of the attack on no less than Muhammad Yunus, creator of the microlending concept, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.    Grameen is one of the most visible, successful and transformational microlending organizations in the world, and like most successful enterprises, its success has attracted the unwanted attentions of those who would have it for themselves.  In this case, Grameen has become the takeover target of the Bangladeshi government.  The current events have caused overwhelming public outrage in Bangladesh over the last week, as a Government takeover of the Bank would effectively result in the millions of borrower owners (and their families) of the Grameen Bank -who own 97% of the shares of the Bank- being disenfranchised.

If the Grameen bank were to lose its independence, then this unique model of microcredit would totally perish; indeed, the model is not only selfless (Grameen Bank is a nonprofit making organization), but it is also responsible (in the sense that all borrowers also place their savings in the bank), and of course democratic (as it is the borrowers who democratically elect 9 of the 12 members of the Board).

The main reason for the current attacks appears to be a blatant attempt to take control over a highly successful bank where the Government’s equity has dwindled to barely 3% (despite this, it still prevails on the Board because of the governance structure of the institution). This campaign could be also viewed as a deep rooted animosity. Speculations range from petty jealousy over Yunus’ Nobel Prize and his international fame to grievances against Yunus for his brief foray in Bangladeshi politics.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister, speaking in the Parliament, has famously accused the Nobel Peace Prize-winner of “bloodsucking the poor”. The trigger for the Prime Minister’s outburst was an unfounded report in a Norwegian TV channel broadcast on 30th November 2010 claiming that a misallocation of a Norwegian Government grant dating back to 1996.

This report was quickly refuted by the Government of Norway which declared on the official website of its Ministry of Foreign affairs “… there is no indication that Norwegian funds have been used for unintended purposes, or that Grameen Bank has engaged in corrupt practices or embezzled funds.”

One would have thought that the Norwegian declaration of a clean bill for Grameen Bank would have been the logical conclusion of a matter raised and addressed. The allegations appear even more surprising as Grameen Bank is audited annually by Bangladesh’s Central Bank as well as one of the “Big Four” accounting firms as the outside auditor.

And so the accusations flow.  There are other allegations against Dr. Yunus, all of which seem equally bogus upon review.  The reality is that Grameen Bank stands as a valuable asset and an icon of Bangladeshi success, both of which are highly needed by the Bangladeshi government these days.  If the work and reputation of Dr. Yunus is the price to be paid for an easy acquisition of money and status, then the government is unfortunately willing to pay it.

There have been few individuals who have left such a positive and imaginative legacy on the world as Dr. Muhammad Yunus.  It is both ironic and unjust that  one who has struggled so effectively to give opportunity and dignity to the impoverished of the world now stands on the threshold of betrayal, at the hands of those who can only understand the value of power and wealth for themselves.

There is a great deal more detailed information available at the Friends of Grameen website.    Visit there to learn about the fraud being perpetrated against some of the poorest and yet most successful people in the world.  Ultimately it is not Dr. Yunus who pays the price for this coup, but the borrowers and supporters of Grameen Bank….

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