Yunus Centre's response to news reports about comments reportedly made by the prime minister about Prof Yunus
Yunus Centre, which promotes ideas and philosophies of Nobel Peace Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, yesterday expressed shock at the alleged comments made by the prime minister, terming them incorrect and misleading.
“We hope that the Honourable Prime Minister did not actually make these comments, but we are responding to each of the quotes attributed to her, since they have been published widely,” said Yunus Centre in a statement.
The response came after several daily newspapers reported the prime minister's alleged remarks on the founder of Grameen Bank at the meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council on Tuesday.
Here is the full response of Yunus Centre:
Prime Minister: Dr Yunus influenced Hillary Clinton to cancel the fund for Padma Bridge from the World Bank due to the conflict with me and my government. He is harmful to the nation.
Yunus Centre's response: Prof Yunus had already given a statement, when Honourable PM first made the allegation, stating that Padma Bridge is a dream of the people of Bangladesh, and that he would never stand in the way to realise that dream. It is therefore out of the question that Prof Yunus asked Hillary Clinton to use her influence to cancel the Padma bridge loan. He would never do such a thing against the interest of Bangladesh. It is shocking that Honourable PM is quoted as making such a statement without presenting any proof of the truth of such a statement.
Prof Yunus has dedicated his life to creating institutions that work for the people of Bangladesh. His work and contributions have been recognised throughout the world through the award of Nobel Peace Prize and many other prizes. He has always promoted Bangladesh and its successes and has helped put Bangladesh on the map as a model for development and poverty reduction. To state that he is harmful to the nation is very unfortunate.
All the remarks attributed to Honourable Prime Minister in the media came during the presentation of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division on Grameen Fisheries & Livestock Foundation. The presentation concluded that the organisation's “methods had failed to help the poor”.
Yunus Centre: The conclusion of the IMED report on Grameen Fisheries programmes is totally unfounded. Grameen Fisheries leased ponds to develop fisheries from the government in 1986 for a period of 25 years, before handing them back to government in 2010.
During the time of its management, Grameen Fisheries developed derelict ponds and water bodies into fisheries increasing the number of ponds under fish culture from 339 to 615, and fish production from 46 tonnes to 20,400 tonnes, by the time the project was handed back to the government. Income from the sale of fish went up from Tk 12.87 lakh to more than Tk 70 crores, by the time of hand-over back to the government. This was well run and highly successful project, whose future became uncertain after the ponds were returned to the government in 2011, on expiry of the lease agreement.
Prime Minister: Grameenphone (GP) was supposed to be a joint venture between Grameen Bank and Grameenphone. Dr Yunus sold share of Grameenphone.
Yunus Centre: GP is in fact a joint venture company. One of the owners of GP is Norwegian company Telenor which is owned by the Norwegian government. The second owner of GP is Grameen Telecom which is a non-profit company registered under section 28 of the Company's Act and has no private owner. The other owners of GP are the numerous investors and shareholders of Bangladesh who continually trade its shares in the stockmarket. Prof Yunus never owned any share in the past, nor does he own any share now, of GP. Therefore the question of his selling any share does not arise. Grameen Bank did not own any share of GP at any time. So the question of Grameen Bank selling shares of GP does not arise. Grameen Telecom did not sell any of its shares except in case of selling shares to general public as agreed by all partners of GP.
Grameen Telecom operates the Village Pay Phone programme to give poor women entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell phone services in the village. Hundreds of thousands of women are engaged in this programme and make good income from the programme. Because of the path-breaking work of GP, telephone services today are so affordable. A mobile phone is now within the reach of most people in Bangladesh even in the remotest areas.
Profits from GP that come to Grameen Telecom, a non-profit company, are used for projects that support the welfare of the common people of the country.
Prime Minister: Poor people are getting stuck in microcredit system's trap. It charges high interest rates. Its dominant approach is commercial. Grameen Bank's 54 associated companies and organisations bearing the Grameen name paint the picture of how the poor are getting caught in the debt trap.
Yunus Centre: Grameen Bank and programmes similar to it operate all over Bangladesh. The model is replicated around the world and many impact studies have shown that microcredit provides opportunities for poor people to improve their lives through loans that do not require collateral, where regular banks do not provide access to finance to the poor. Of all microcredit organisations' operating in Bangladesh, governmental or nongovernmental, Grameen Bank's interest rate is the lowest. "Microcredit trap" does not exist in Grameen Bank. Its borrowers around the country highly value the service provided to them.
Grameen Bank is overwhelmingly owned (75 percent) by borrowers. They are majority members of the board. There is no scope for the bank to harm its owners.
Grameen Bank disbursed Tk 1.1 trillion since its inception. In April 2014 to March 2015, Grameen Bank disbursed Tk 13,670 crore to borrowers as loan. Total savings of all the borrowers together in Grameen Bank was Tk 10,595 crore as of March 2015 while outstanding loan on the same date was Tk 9,025 crore. Borrower's money in the bank exceeded the amount they owed to the bank. Not many banks can claim such a record.
According to one major daily, Honourable PM is quoted giving example of a woman she knew who borrowed Tk 5,000 but was asked to pay Tk 16,000. This is not possible in Grameen Bank as the bank's rules do not allow the total interest to exceed the total principal under any circumstances. On death of a borrower, all outstanding loans are written off. Grameen Bank offers pension fund, educational loans for children and helps during the time of disaster etc. Moreover, as shareholders they receive dividends from the profit of the bank every year since 2006.
The 54 companies that Honourable PM has referred to are independent companies with independent financing. None of the companies have any investment from Grameen Bank so they cannot be called Grameen Bank's companies. These organisations do not operate microcredit programmes, so it is not clear why looking at these companies would indicate how poor people “remain trapped in".
It is shocking that Honourable PM is quoted to have made allegations of such a deeply serious nature about a reputed person such as Prof Yunus without presenting any proof against any of the allegations.
There are important implications of Honourable Prime Minister's comments for the country and personally for Prof Yunus. They create wrong impressions in the minds of people within and outside the country. We have responded to all of these allegations and issues elaborately before. Media has carried all our responses in details. We are sorry that the same allegations keep on surfacing without any reference to our responses. We are bringing out the facts once again to set the records straight.