Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bangladesh yields to international pressure calls for compromise with Yunus

SALEEM SAMAD

A DAY after US official cautioned Bangladesh, the authority seems to have softened their voice for an acceptable solution to the crisis.


After international leaders mounted diplomatic pressure, the government instead urged Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus to bring forward a compromise formula. There is no immediate response from Yunus office regarding the somersaulted by the government.

The finance minister AMA Muhith said the ball is in Yunus court, and he has to initiate negotiations with the government for a solution to the ongoing controversy, a statement issued on Wednesday said. "The government is ready for this. But Prof. Yunus will
have to come forward to solve the issue".


It said the senior official’s remark in this regard is very clear and he had conveyed the same the day when US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O Blake, US ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn met Muhith.

The explanation by the government came a day after visiting US assistant secretary of state Robert O Blake said the US-Bangladesh ties would be affected if the issue was not settled in a respectable manner.

Quoting Muhith, the statement signed by Gokul Chand Das, joint secretary of banks and financial institutions department under the finance ministry, said, "We [the government] wanted a respectable solution to this from the beginning and are still looking for ways in this regard."

However the Finance Minister dismissed the news in local media of the Prime Minister’s initiative to reach settlement on the issue of Prof. Yunus.

On Mar 2, Bangladesh Bank ordered the removal of Yunus from the post of managing director of the specialized Grameen Bank, saying that he was long past his retirement age.

Yunus later filed writ petitions challenging the legality of the central bank order, but the High Court rejected his petitions.

Speaking to students, the celebrated micro-finance visionary Prof. Yunus on Wednesday said a line must be drawn between microfinance and non-microfinance organizations to distinguish which are social services and which are money making organizations.

The reason for separation was because of long debate of who is maximizing profit through small loans.

The founder of the Grameen Bank said while speaking at a Social Business event at the American International School in the capital Dhaka, "Microfinance is something that works for the people and the whole organization is dedicated for their welfare," said the microcredit guru, adding, "I am not against people doing business. But I will request them not to use the word microcredit when they do other businesses. People might get confused with it." [ENDS]


Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He has recently returned from exile in Canada. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com