Bangladesh on Tuesday criticised remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Grameen Bank, from where Nobel-laureate Muhammad Yunus was removed last year over allegations of flouting rules.
Before wrapping up her 20-hour Dhaka tour on May 6, Ms. Clinton said: “I highly respect Muhammad Yunus and I highly respect the work he has done and I hope to see it continue without being affected or undermined by any government action.”
Ms. Clinton also praised Grameen Bank as one of the “best development organisations in the world”, a model that has been replicated across the developing world and a “very important tool for lifting people out of poverty”. “I can only hope that nothing is done that in any way undermines the success of what Grameen Bank has accomplished on behalf of many millions of poor women,” she added. She held exclusive meeting with Mr. Yunus and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) founder Fazle Hasan Abed and dubbed them as “national treasures” and wanted the government to treat them accordingly.
Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith said: “Hillary's statement on the Grameen Bank was undue.” He told a media briefing on Tuesday that the government had not changed its stance about the microfinance organisation. “Grameen Bank is a state-owned organisation and the government has been working for its progress.”
Following a row over Mr. Yunus continuing as Managing Director of the famous microcredit institution beyond retirement age, and also allegations of transferring of funds without donors' permission, Mr. Yunus was removed from his post last year. The Finance Minister claimed the bank did not face any problem after Mr. Yunus' removal.
Mr. Yunus, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 with the Grameen Bank, lost a series of legal battles, eventually losing his hold on the institution he is credited with building.
“The contention of Mr. Yunus that the government wants to grab the Grameen Bank is totally rubbish,” said Mr. Muhith. “I am sorry that I have termed it rubbish. But that's true.”
The United States and some donor agencies kept pressuring the government, siding with Mr. Yunus.
But the government claimed it never meddled in the affairs of the Grameen Bank. “Neither America nor the World Bank has given a single paisa to help this organisation,” said Mr. Muhith, who also said a commission would be formed soon to oversee the activities of the organisations associated with the Grameen Bank.