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06/21/2013

Nobel laureate tells Bangladesh to stop 'snatching' bank from poor

BangladeshBangladeshi workers sort fabric in a factory in Ashulia. (Munir Uzzaman/AFP) 

Nobel peace prize laureate Muhammad Yunus is continuing his fight against the Bangladesh government over the management of the nation's Grameen Bank.

Yunus, who received the Nobel prize jointly with the bank, is livid the government wants to wrest majority control of the Grameen's shares from the rural poor. He is accusing Bangladesh of "snatching" the bank away from the people it was set up to help.

Yunus voiced his displeasure in an opinion piece printed in all Bangladesh dailies, according to the AFP.

The bank was 90 per cent owned by rural poor shareholders. However, the government just raised its stake in the bank to 25 per cent.

"Will the inquiry commission explain to the people of the country why a bank that operates with its citizens' own money surrender 51 per cent or more of its shares to the government, knowing fully well that will be extremely risky, to say the least," the AFP reports that he wrote.

"This is nothing but snatching. Please do not try to snatch the poor people's bank out of their hands."

Yunus launched the Grameen in 1976 when he was a rural economics professor at the University of Chittagong. The idea behind the bank was to provide a credit delivery system for the working poor.

The Yunus Centre, formed after his Nobel win, pushes for social change in Bangladesh and is active in bringing attention to the plight of garment workers.

According to his website, earlier this month he spoke at a Tokyo international retail conference. He asked all CEOs for a private meeting on their actions in Bangladesh and he pushed for them to impose a voluntary minimum wage for garment workers.

He said companies could use a "Happy Workers" tag in manufactured clothes if they offer labourers reasonable welfare and social programs.

Yunus was fired from the Grameen in 2011 after he attempted to launch a political career. AFP notes he was officially let go for "exceeding the mandatory retirement age of 60." He fought the firing but lost.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

 

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