Bangladesh opposition joins protests over Grameen Bank’s proposed split


Bangladesh's main opposition party BNP has joined growing protests at home and abroad against a proposed split of Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank, two years after its iconic founder Muhammad Yunus was forced to quit.

Grameen's proposed restructuring was actually aimed at just humiliating Bangladesh's lone Nobel Laureate Yunus, and as part of the design, he was ousted as the bank's managing director and "now he government has started the final step to ruin the renowned institution", BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged Friday.

Grameen was founded as a statutory body under a law offering ownership to its client members three decades ago but a government commission has now suggested its total restructuring by splitting it into at least 19 independently registered groups giving the government its absolute control.

Grameen has so far lent over $11 billion to millions of people — mainly women — to help them gain financial independence, thereby severing poverty cycles by offering collateral-free credit while the model has been replicated in many developing and developed nations.

The success earned the institution, and its founder Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

The United States also voiced support for Yunus and Grameen's integrated shape with US Congressman Rush Holt saying Friday, "It is past time for the government of Bangladesh to cease its efforts to destroy one of the true economic marvels of our age: Grameen Bank."

"If the government of Bangladesh persists in its attacks on the bank and Prof Muhammad Yunus, we (US) should re-evaluate the wisdom of our current push to deepen political and security ties to this government," Holt said.

But Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu Friday said the bank was not anyone's personal property as "most of the investment of the bank is provided by the state and therefore the state has the right to look after it."

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