Keep hands off Grameen Bank: Director
A borrower-shareholder and one of the directors of Grameen Bank has urged the government to leave the matter of taking decisions for the bank on its members who she said hold its 97 percent share.
“The government can also take part in making decisions as it holds 3 percent share, but it is our decision to appoint a Managing Director. No one can interfere there,” Rozina Begum told a discussion at the National Press Club on Thursday.
She also urged the government to cancel the decision to form a committee to investigate the activities of the bank, and stop ‘harassment and propaganda against Muhammad Yunus’, who had founded the bank and shred Nobel Peace Prize 2006 with it.
Grameen Bank Director Rozina said, “My husband had pulled rickshaw once. My son was also supposed to pull rickshaw following him.
“But today he is studying in the Dhaka University with Grameen Bank’s help,” she added.
The Cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Aug 2 approved a draft of ‘Grameen Bank Ordinance (Amendment) 2012′ to change the legal provision for appointing Managing Director to the bank.
The government move is being seen as an attempt to tighten its control over the Grameen Bank by expanding the powers of the government-appointed Chairman to choose its Managing Director. Currently, that power resides with the bank’s board of directors, which is made up of Yunus supporters.
The Cabinet also decided to investigate whether Yunus had enjoyed tax exemption during his stint as the chief executive of the bank and how much money he made in salaries and allowances after he turned 60.
Speakers at the discussion, organised to protest ‘depriving 8.5 million poor women from the ownership of Grameen Bank’, urged President Zillur Rahman not to sign the ordinance for the bank.
Former Finance Advisor to the Caretaker Government Akbar Ali Khan, Dhaka University Prof Asif Nazrul and The New Nation Editor Mostafa Kamal Majumder, among others, spoke at the discussion.
‘GB interest lower than govt banks’
The state-owned banks charged more interest than the Grameen Bank, though the rates of interest for loans from these banks ‘are shown lower in documents’, Akbar Ali Khan said.
The microcredit lender had contested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s claim that it was charging 30 to 45 percent interest from the poor.
“If the Grameen Bank’s rate of interest seems 30-40 percent after counting the total amount of repayment given in instalments, it is still lower than other state-owned banks,” he said.
“What is the rate of interest of Krishi Bank loans?” he asked.
“Poor people have to pay bribe to get loan from the state-owned banks. They have to spend money to come to towns to lobby for loans,” he claimed.
“The government banks show in documents that they charge 10 percent interest, but the amount will be higher if these expenses are added,” Khan argued.
Replying to queries on removal of Muhammad Yunus from the bank on Jul 30, Hasina had told BBC’s Hardtalk that charging 30 to 45 percent interest from the poor was unfair.
The allegations brought against the bank were ‘false’, Akbar told the discussion on Thursday.
“We want to know the fact. We are ready to help the government resolve problems if it needs,” he added.
He also said, “No case or complaint is filed when thousands of crores of taka is looted from the state-owned banks or the share market. But the government is taking steps against the Grameen Bank and Yunus without any specific reason.”
He urged the government to emphasise the decisions taken by the Grameen Bank Board of Directors with regard to the bank.