We Stand in Support of Professor Muhammad Yunus Against the Corruption Investigations by the Government of Bangladesh
- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Government of Bangladesh
From an article by Nicholas Kristof "Is Bangladesh trying to take over Grameen Bank", the New York Times, January 5, 2011
There seems to be a multi-pronged assault on Grameen Bank and on Muhammad Yunus, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role pioneering microfinance. The Bangladeshi press has lately been full of denunciations of Yunus. On Tuesday, for example, one Bangladeshi news organization quoted an economist as saying of him: “A lot about him is just myth. He had never been selfless in any of his initiatives.”
Meanwhile the Bangladeshi government has ordered a corruption investigation of Grameen after a Norwegian television documentary raised questions, even though the Norwegian government said there was nothing to the charges. There have also been false published reports that Yunus will resign and suggestions that he should retire for reasons of age. And it seems the government of Sheikh Hasina wants to revise the ownership of Grameen Bank so that it would be 60 percent government-owned.
It has taken Professor Muhammad Yunus over 30 years of hard and relentless work to establish a more inclusive economic system in Bangladesh through Grameen Bank, the world-famous bank he founded in 1983 that lends small loans to poor people for income generating activities known as microcredit. Grameen Bank is the envy of the world, and Professor Yunus was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen in 2006.
Grameen Bank Project was born in the village of Jobra, Bangladesh, in 1976. In 1983 it was transformed into a formal bank under a special law passed for its creation by the government of Bangladesh. Grameen Bank is owned by the poor borrowers of the bank who are mostly women. It works exclusively for them. Borrowers of Grameen Bank at present own 95% of the total equity of the bank while the remaining 5% is owned by the government. If the government of Bangladesh changes the law and becomes the owner of the bank it will defeat its main purpose to empower poor women and lift them out of poverty. Grameen Bank is considered the ultimate example of social business for the very reason that it provides small loans without collateral to the poor and it is owned by its poor borrowers.
We, the undersigned, appeal to the government of Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stop baseless investigations on Grameen Bank and Professor Yunus and let him continue his work for the poor in peace and with dignity. We want Grameen borrowers to retain ownership of the bank and Professor Yunus to be appointed Executive Chairman of Grameen Bank in recognition of his enduring hard work and unyielding commitment towards the poor. For some time now, increasingly insistent news reports have made evident a wish by some Bangladeshi government representatives to see Professor Yunus’ key role in poverty alleviation fade.
Particularly, after a Norwegian television documentary falsely accused Professor Yunus of wrong-doing in early December, the government of Bangladesh started inquisitions and corruption investigations against Professor Yunus with the intent of blocking the progress of his work, although the Norwegian government gave him the all-clear. These allegations of wrong-doing are in contradiction to what country leaders around the world think of Professor Yunus. Only last year United States President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and this year the US Congress will award him the Congressional Gold Medal to recognize his work in microfinance as a key component to address the needs of the poor and promote social and economic change.
The United States is just one of the numerous countries around the globe that supports Professor Yunus’ work. Throughout his life, Professor Yunus has always fought for social inclusion and projected his values to create a poverty-free world in all his long-term achievements. Through his efforts he has brought social and economic benefits to millions of poor people around the world, giving them the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and become small entrepreneurs who live a dignified life.
It seems unthinkable that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina recently stated that microfinance “sucks blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation.” At a crucial time when social business and microfinance programs developed by Professor Yunus are being replicated and adopted in many nations and being taught in many higher education institutions the world over, we believe it is essential that the government of Bangladesh stop this tirade against Professor Yunus and allows him to continue his important work towards poverty alleviation. Therefore, we declare a peaceful yet strong opposition to the recent behavior of the Bangladeshi government and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.