Bangladesh

Yunus loses bid to stay on as Grameen chairman

Reuters/Andrew Biraj

Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus has lost his final court appeal to stay on as chairman of the Grameen bank. After putting up weeks of resistance, he now says it is time to quit.

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The country's Supreme Court made a unanimous ruling against Yunus.

The seven judges stated that the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner should have sought endorsement from the Bangladesh Central Bank, the main Grameen shareholder, before appointing himself chair for life at the microcredit lender in 1999.

Early in March the Bangladesh central bank moved for his dismissal. The High Court in Dhaka upheld the central bank order adding that Yunus had also exceeded the Grameen Bank's mandatory retirement age of 60.

Yunus then mustered high-profile supporters, mainly in Western countries, and defied the sacking order by filing appeals. The United States threatened to downgrade ties with Bangladesh if Yunus was not allowed to stay.

His supporters say Yunus is being victimised by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina because he set up a political party in 2007 while Bangladesh was still under military rule.
Last December Sheikh Hasina accused him of treating the bank as his personal property and “sucking the blood of the poor”.

Critics in Bangladesh, India and other poor countries such as Bolivia, have accused the bank of lending to the poor at high interest rates and substituting loans for state safety-net programmes.

The Grameen Bank is 25 per cent state-owned, employs 24,000 people, and provides credit to eight million borrowers, the vast majority of them women living in rural villages.
It is currently the target of a government probe into its links with giant foreign multinationals in sectors such as solar panels, mobile phones and other consumer goods.

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