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Grameen Companies under Scrutiny May 27, 2013

Posted by bdoza in BANGLADESH.
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Grameen companies, many of whom are joint ventures with the internationally renowned foreign companies like Danone, Viola are under scrutiny in Bangladesh. A commission specially formed to study the association of these companies with the Grameen Bank issued instruction to submit all their documents to the commission failing of which will be dealt seriously.

Link: the news

An ordinary citizen

Grameen Experience and Prospect of PPP in Bangladesh August 14, 2012

Posted by bdoza in BANGLADESH, ECONOMY.
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I was listening to a talk show in the midnight in one of TV channels. One of the experts of the program was a professor of a university. He was discussing the impact of experience of Grameen on the future of Private Public Partnership’ in Bangladesh.
Grameen Bank was institutionalized through an ordinance in 1983. Through this ordinance, Bangladesh Government has the privilege of having a percentage of share in the capital of Bank and also to appoint the chairman and to have 2 more members in the board of directors. Initially the government had a good share but at present it comes to 3% and the client shares is 97%.
Dr. Muhammad Yunus was its Managing Director since its inception till 2011 until he had to resign on the pressure of the government. During his stay in the helm of bank over the last 30 years, Dr. Yunus had transformed the bank into an internationally acclaimed institution that also brought Nobel Peace Prize Prize not only for him but also for Grameen Bank. Grameen bank has 8.3 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women, about 25 thousand employees, covered above 80,000 villages, distributed more than 11.5 billion US $ (approx. tk 700 billion), recovery rate is 95%.

Government has recently taken a move to change the Grameen Bank ordinance 1983 to empower the government selected-chairman to fix the managing director of his choice ignoring the elected members of the borrower-shareholders of the Grameen bank. Earlier the government also forced Dr. Muhammad Yunus to resign from his of Managing Director against the will of Board of Directors.

The move will create confusion in the minds of the willing partners of PPP of loosing their control on the joint enterprises with the Government.

An ordinary citzen

Grameen Again: A State vs An Individual August 7, 2012

Posted by bdoza in BANGLADESH, GOVERNANCE.
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The Council of Minister of Bangladesh has adopted a proposal on 2nd August 2012 to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983 to reduce the power of Board of Directors to select the Managing Director of the Bank and to empower the Chairman of the Bank to nominate the same on his own choice.
The proposals also include clauses that question the legality of Dr. Mohammad Yunus to enjoy the financial benefit after
the age of 60 yr that he had served as MD of the Bank. The Council of Ministers also asks the NBR to check the money he earned as wage earner and tax that he had evaded for that.

Dr. Yunus has expressed fear and frustration over the move of the Government as it will destroy Grameen Bank and deprive its women shareholder their due right and ask the countrymen to step forward to save the bank.

Dr. Kamal Hussain, an eminent jurist and an author of Bangladesh Constitution, wonders why Government is out to damage the reputation of Dr. Yunus . Dr. Hussain Zillur Rahman, an economic researcher and an Ex-Adviser to the Caretaker Government and Dr. Mirza Azizul Islam, ex-Finance Adviser to the last caretaker government also criticized the move of the Government.
In an editorial,Daily Star, the English daily cautioned that the amendment will undermine the Grameen Bank and the move will end in politicization.

The US also expressed its worry at Government actions on Grameen Bank and it sees the move as a disregard to the request Hillary Clinton made in her last visit to Bangladesh a few months back.

An ordinary citizen

Post script:

7th Aug 2012
NBR men swoop on 54 Grameen entitis

8th August 2012

NBR finds no wrongdoing in taxes by Grameen or Dr. yunus.

9th Aug 2012
58 leading women leaders ask Government to leave Grameen Bank as it is and not to change the ordinance and deprive the owners

A Social Business Day July 4, 2011

Posted by bdoza in BANGLADESH, ECONOMY, Yunus.
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I was just in time at the Pan Pcific Hotel Sonargaon at Dhaka on 28 June 2011, after 10 hours of long overnight journey by train. I introduced myself to the registration corner and got my name checked.

The theme of day was ‘achieving millennium development goals by social business’. The premier discussion started at 10 am. The session was chaired by Dr. Mohammad Yunus himself.

At the start of the program Professor Yunus introduced the guests coming from all over the world from Japan to Costa Rica. In his inaugural speech Dr. Yunus explained the social business, its scope and difficulties. Some of the points that I marked in his speech are- ‘people will attract to social business as it is a simple term, easy to understand’, ‘it is dedicated to alleviate the poverty’, ‘is addressed to any social problem’, ‘based on no loss no dividend policy’. He hopes that though social business is in it’s early stage like the aeroplane of the Write Brothers but soon the supersonic planes will fly over.

Then the speakers on the dias spoke on their experience on social business one by one. Thomas Stelzer, UN assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and inter-agency affairs was present in the day as a representative of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of UN. He declared that Dr. Muhammad Yunus has been made a member, among 20 other Nobel Laureates, of the Millennium Advisory Group to the Secretary General. He told that he has come to have a deeper understanding of the social business as tool to achieve the millennium goals. Saori Dubourg, president of regional functions and country management for Asia-Pacific of BASF narrated their experience in providing insecticide impregnated mosquito nets to the rural people of Bangladesh as social business. Corinne Bazina, chief executive of Grameen-Danone described their struggle to provide the vitamin fortified yugurt to improve the nutrition of Bangladeshi children. Hans Reitz, founder of Grameen Creative Lab, Germany described his new mission of solving problems by social business after long years of expreience in entrepreneurship. Masaharu Okada, executive director of Grameen Creative Lab at Kyushu University in Japan discussed why they started Grameen Creative Lab to find out solutions to the social problems and Grameen Technology Lab to innovative technologies to support social business. He expressed using social business to serve the victims of Japan recent earth quacks and Tsunami.

A Bangladeshi businessman,based in Bahrain, running fiber glass business worldwide, narrated how he thought of founding a fibreglass factory in Bangladesh through social business model. At the end Dr. Yunus thanked all who came from abroad and all who participated from Banladesh to support the social business initiative.

Dr. Yunus also has given a short interview to the media. One interesting question they asked whether he starts social business bieng failed in microfinance. He replied ‘Microfinance (Grameen Bank) is also a sort of social business, whether it failed not time will tell. We are now thinking of many other social business to alleviate the poverty’.

About 1200 participants from home and abroad were present on the event. Delgates from USA, French, Germany, Italy, Swizerland, Japan, India, Middle East and Costarica attended the event. Citizen Groups representatives Mr. Hafizuddin, ex adviser to the caretaker government, Mahfuz Anam, editor Daily Star, Badiul Alam Majumder, Secretary , Citizens for Good Governance,Dr. Ainun Nishad, Bagladeshi water expert, Atiqul Hoque chowdhury, eminet play writer, Abul Ahsan Chowdhury, ex-state minister for foriegn affairs of last AL regime among many that I could recognize in the meeting among the locals.

After the premier program, Dr. Yunus visited the stalls that are set to project the social business activities that the companies and institutions were promoting.The stalls include Grameen Bank, Yunus Centre, Grameen Dannone, Grameen-BASF, Grameen Veolia, Japan Kyushu University, Grameen Nursing College, A solar energy from India, Grameen Shakti and few more. Dr. Yunus took the trouble to visit every stall and gave time to listen their ideas of projections.

The event was neat, well organised and highly satisfying to the participants.

An ordinary citizen

Social Business Day 2011- All the Links

Options Left for Dr. Yunus May 11, 2011

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Verdict of supreme court has been given and as was predicted it was gone against Dr. Yunus and Board of Directors of Grameen.

Grameen has tried it’s best to mainatin it’s integrity and appeal to the high court against the order of Bangladesh Bank. High Court rejected it’s appeal. Then they appeal at the Supreme Court. Supreme Court also refused to consider their appeal. They appeal for review of the judgment again in the highest court. The lawyers are best of the country. They placed their arguments eloquently but neither the eloquency, nor the logic could change the determination of the judges.

Now, Dr. Yunus will have to leave the post that he was holding for 30 years. In a letter Yunus expressed that he is waiting for the decision of the Board of Directors. According to the Grameen Bank Ordinance,1983 it is the BoDs to decide the next managing director and to place to BB to approve it. It is not the other way round that BB will appoint MD and BoD will approve it. If government does not like to play in the mud, it should leave Grameen Bank to work by its own rule.
There is little chance that Government will nominate Dr. Yunus as the Chairman of Grameen Bank.

Then what is left for Dr.Yunus to do. His legal fight may not yet over. Governmnet may next take steps to incorporate the social enterprizes with Grameen Bank. There are about 44 ‘social business’ companies where Dr. Yunus is working as chairman or director in most of them. As these businesses are associated with different international companies, such as Danone, Adidas, Intel etc, any government attempt will not go unchallenged.

One option for Yunus is to look after the social business companies he has established. His second option is to be appointed as chief executive in an international body that is looking after the poverty alliviation program. UN may think to open an Special Commission to be headed by Dr. Muhammad Yunus that will look after provery alliviation program of different countries including Bangladesh.

The last option for Yunus is to enter into politics. He could only join politics if a social environment is created in Bangladesh to accomodate a person like him in our politics like ELBaradei in Egypt. ElBaradei is also a Nobel laureate.

An ordinary citizen

Is USA doing excess on Yunus issue? March 30, 2011

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US Asstt. Secretary of State for South and Cental Asian Affairs Mr. Roger Blake recently visited Bangladesh and met with Prime Minister and other dignitaries and talked with the press. He expressed the US concern over the removal of Dr. Yunus from Grameen Bank. He said that Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank bear a good image in USA also. Grameen Bank is also working there. USA is interested to see the freedom and integrity of Grameen Bank maintained. President Barak Obama and Secretary of State of USA Hillary Clinton are personally concern for Dr. Yunus. Hillary and Clinton have long personal association with Dr.Yunus since their days of Ankarasas. Obama bestows the Presidential Award of USA on Dr. Yunus. USA hopes that a settement can be found out by open discussion between Dr. Yunus and Bangladesh Government.

Is USA playing excess? Apparently it seems. Mr. Blake has gone far to even say that the visit of Hillary Clinton to Bangladesh will depend on the amicable settlement of the issue. Dipo Moni , our foreign minister termed excess US interest as interferce in our internal affairs. At this point the Adviser to the Finance spoke out and said that government is searching a solution for the issue and a committee is formed with the finance minister MA Muhith as the chairman of the committee.

Badruddin Omar and Farhad Majhar, two left leaning intectectual in Bangladesh look the matter as an interference in our internal issues. They see it as a part of all out agenda of USA to dictate the affairs of the region ranging from Afganistan to present conflict in Libya. Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of Dept of International Affairs of Dhaka University said that we created the opporunity for others to interfere in our own affairs.

Many also think that the way the government handle the matter not only demean the only nobel laureate of the country but also the country itself.

As the news goes, the government is taking new initiative to settle the issue. Finance Minister MA Muhith has given the assignment to do the job. Muhith wants Dr. Yunus to come up with fresh proposal.

An ordinary citizen

The Need for Statesmanship-Rehman Sobhan March 15, 2011

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Rehman Sobhan, the Chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue, a think tank for Bangladesh policy issues has presented a discourse that published in the Daily Star on the present complicacies related to Grameen and Dr. Yunus and has outlined a way out from the present situation for the consideration of the Prime Minister herself.
The article is worth reading. It is one of the finest on the issue. Following is the concluding part of the article:

From confrontation to statesmanship

‘The spokespersons for the government, in their recent public pronouncements, have stated that the government has no political quarrel with Yunus. All they wanted to do was to preserve the rule of law. I would like to take these declarations on behalf of the government at their face value. If, indeed, the only issue was the rule of law then the principal deviation from the law, as cited in the Bangladesh Bank order, was the failure of the Grameen Bank to seek prior approval of the Bangladesh Bank in their reappointment of Yunus as managing director in 1999. The Bangladesh Bank raised this issue in its Annual Audit Report of Grameen Bank, which gave a full reply to the queries in the Report.

If the Grameen Bank’s reply was at all problematic for Bangladesh Bank or the GoB, the Bangladesh Bank could easily have sent further notices to the Grameen Bank to formally correct such a legal anomaly. The Bangladesh Bank, during the tenure of three democratic governments, two caretaker governments and four governors who held office from 1999 to 2011, sent no further notices to Grameen Bank. This sustained silence by the Bangladesh Bank was quite reasonably interpreted by Grameen Bank as the acceptance of their response to Bangladesh Bank’s audit report and the validation of the Board’s decision on their continuation of Yunus’s appointment as managing director.

Even today, there was nothing to prevent the Governor of the Bangladesh Bank from sending such a notice to Grameen Bank before seeking to remove Yunus from office. Grameen Bank could have explained its actions and/or it could have sought an approval for the continuance of the appointment of Yunus. The Bangladesh Bank could then have accorded its approval if it thought that Prof. Yunus was running the bank efficiently, based on positive reports of the Bangladesh Bank audits of Grameen Bank over the last 12 years. Why such a sensible step was not taken needs explanation. We are, consequently, witnessing these legal encounters which do not greatly enhance the credibility of our institutions of governance nor are they likely to resolve this needless crisis.

So where do we go from here? Given the historic role of Yunus to the development of Grameen Bank, the confidence he generates among its investors and the corporate asset value of his name, such observations as indicated by the finance minister or the Local Government Minister, Ashraful Islam or even by Yunus himself, of providing Yunus with an “honourable exit” from the Bank, appear to overlook the central issue, which is the well being of the Grameen Bank and the livelihood of its millions of members. About the last thing anyone with the best interests of the Bank and its 8 million members in mind, would want is the “exit,” graceful or otherwise, of Yunus from Grameen Bank.

Any precipitate move to oust its founder could shake the confidence of its members in the Bank and expose it not just to a withdrawal of their savings but even a default on their debts. Such a run on Grameen Bank could have a contagion effect which could jeopardise the financial stability of other micro-finance institutions across the country. The relevant issue to be resolved is, therefore, not Yunus’s exit but the terms and conditions which should govern his continuing role in Grameen Bank until he chooses to withdraw from any institutional involvements.

Under the prevailing circumstances what may be a sensible way forward? Prof. Yunus has already suggested such a path. At the age of 70 Yunus still has the energy and creativity of a young man. Even if he were to withdraw completely from Grameen Bank, he chairs a variety of Grameen branded institutions dedicated to serve the resource poor. He can mobilise millions of dollars from both international development agencies as well as Fortune 500 companies to partner any of these or further ventures he sets up. A person of his energy, reputation and fund raising capacity should, thus, be irrevocably bound to the Grameen Bank with hoops of steel and age should not be seen as a bar to his involvement.

Indeed, in Bangladesh as in many countries, age is no disqualification to discharging responsibility. Bangladesh’s finance minister is 78 years old. Our planning minister is nearly 80 years old. Several of the ministers or ministerial level appointees serving the prime minister as advisors have either crossed or are approaching 70. The prime minister as well as the leader of the opposition have led their respective parties for 3 decades, longer than Yunus’s tenure as Managing Director of Grameen Bank.

All these public figures should have long been retired if the attorney general’s declaration in court, that 60 was a universal retirement age, would have been recognised. Fortunately, all the above figures appear to be in the prime of life, enjoy the confidence of their party and government and appear quite capable of carrying on as long as they are willing to do so. To, therefore, apply some arbitrary age limit to the active engagement of Yunus with an organisation he has created from nothing, is neither fair nor good business.

In point of fact, Yunus himself, has declared that he is no longer interested in managing the day to day affairs of an organisation as large as Grameen Bank. He has repeatedly stated he wants to step down and hand over the position of CEO to a professionally competent person, selected through a fair search procedure, who can command the confidence of the millions of members who own the Bank.

In order not to shake the confidence of the members in the continuity of the organisation and to retain the presence of their most valuable capital asset with the Bank, ideally Prof. Yunus should be invited to assume the Chairmanship of the Board of Grameen Bank. In this capacity his presence will perpetuate the global reach of the Bank and retain its access to the policymakers of Bangladesh and the world as well as to the financial community. This would greatly reassure the Bank’s 8 million members that their most prized asset remains engaged with the organisation which embodies their livelihood and life’s savings. Any reluctance to accept such a logical and constructive solution to this gratuitously destructive confrontation would indicate to the world that other variables, unrelated to the interests of Grameen Bank, are in play.

The person who should initiate this constructive conclusion to this regrettable and damaging episode in our history should be none other than the prime minister, who could hardly be insensitive to the concerns of the millions of women who own Grameen Bank or to the political consequences of their alienation. Nor could she be unaware of the domestic political and diplomatic capital so painfully accumulated by her, which is being squandered over an issue which is quite peripheral to her immediate political agenda.

The time has come for the prime minister to re-evaluate the politically costly advise being fed to her. She has already demonstrated her maturity and statesmanship in her decision to resile from her government’s unwise decision, based again on poor advice, to take over Arial Beel. She should now decide to put this unsavoury as well as destructive episode over Grameen Bank behind her and move on.

This may be done through an invitation to Prof. Yunus to meet with her and the finance minister, where all the misgivings she may have accumulated about Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus should be discussed in a spirit of constructive engagement. The prime minister should then personally invite Prof. Yunus to assume the Chair of the Board of Grameen Bank and for them to open a new chapter in the relations between the state and Grameen Bank. Under such a dispensation the search for a managing director of international stature should be initiated.

Within such a spirit of reconciliation, the prime minister should perceive Yunus not as her adversary, which he obviously cannot be as she is the democratically elected leader of the country, but as an asset in the building of a din bodol where poverty and injustice can be banished from Bangladesh. The measure of a leader is the ability to transform her perceived adversary into an ally. The measure of a statesman is a leader who can join hands with her adversary in building a better tomorrow for the generations to come.’

For the full article, please click

An ordinary citizen

What prompted Rahul Gandhi to visit Bangladesh? August 7, 2008

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Rahul Gandhi, Member of the Indian Parliament and son of Sonia Gandhi/Rajib Gandhi had completed his 5 days visit to Bangladesh from 1st August to 5th August 2008. Rahul is also one of the General Secretaries of the Indian Congress. He was received at ZIA by Dr. Muhammad Yunus and other officials from BRAC and Grameen Bank.

During his 5 days’ visit, he toured through different projects of BRAC and Grameen, had talked with Fazle Hussain Abed, founder of BRAC and Profesor Yunus and met with workers and beneficieries of these two corporate NGOs.

He was introduced to Dr. Yunus by his mother at a funcion in Delhi last year. He was interested in microfinance and women empowerment since then and initiated microfinance activitiees in his own constituencies-Amethi.

Though India is progressing economically, but the plight of the poor did not improve in parallel. The percentage of population below the poverty line is more than that of Bangladesh.

But to know the microfinance activity was not likely the prime motive of Rahul.

Rahul in addition to visit the BRAC and Grameen, had a meeting with the leaders of CPD- Centre for policy dialouge where Rehman Sobhan, Dr. Mustafizur rahman and others were present. It is reported that ediitors of some leading dailies were also present in the meeting. Many assume that these are the people who give policy support to the present care taker government. Interestingly, Dr. Muhammad Yunus is the chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Center for Policy Dialogue.(Daily Purbakon)

Rahul Gndhi might had the intention to know the present polical and economic sitution of the country. Then who would be able to give him better understanding of the situation than the elite members of CPD.
CPD members were also present in the private banquet thrown by Dr. Yunus in honour of Rahul Gandhi.

Interestingly Rahul didn’t met with any state dignitaries of any status.

Will Rahul’s visit give him a better understanding of the socio-political condition of Bangladesh? Will the visit help to bridge the mental gap between India and Bangladesh?

An ordinary citizen

Posst Script:

Mohammad Badrul Ahsan in CROSS TALK in Daily Star discusses his thinking on the Rahul’s visit and Bangladesh politics[DS]

Venture of Grameen in America- Grameen America May 1, 2008

Posted by bdoza in BANGLADESH, ECONOMY, NGO, People, Yunus.
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Grameen Ammerica –Grameen’s first micro-finance operation in New York opens recently. Dr. Yunus inaugurates the first branch at Jackson Heights formally though the branch started to work since January 2008.

Grameen America will work as an independent microfinance organization and will not depend on Grameen for its operation though the operational methods will be that of Grameen.

The target population of GA is initially the low income groups of New York City that includes Bangladeshis and Hispanics. Both the groups, more the Hispanics already showed their interest in the microfinance operation. So far 200 families have taken loans from the bank.


A visit to Grameen-Danone: the model of social business March 25, 2008

Posted by bdoza in AGRICULTURE, BANGLADESH, ECONOMY, People, Yunus.
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grameen-danone.jpgI felt an impulse to visit the Gramen-Danone plant when I learned from the internet that Grameen Danone is built on the model of social business- a concept knitted by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. ‘Social business is not to achieve personal gain but to pursue specific social goals’ he said in his book ‘Creating a World without Poverty-social business and the future of capitalism’.

I took a break of 2 days from my job and traveled 600 km to see the project by myself.

I took primary information from one of my friends staying at Bogra. Then I contacted the Resident Engineer who was in the charge of the project over telephone and expressed my interest and hinted that I may come any day.