Microfinance pioneer fired from bank in Bangladesh

Anger greeted the announcement last night that Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, internationally famed for his work in microfinance, was being forced by the Bangladeshi authorities from his position at the head of the bank he founded.

In the latest twist in a series of long-running clashes between the 70-year-old and the government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, an official with the central bank said Mr Yunus had been pushed out from his position as managing director of the Grameen Bank for breaching regulations. The Grameen said Mr Yunus will stay and fight his position.

Precisely which offence Mr Yunus is alleged to have committed is unclear. One official told reporters Mr Yunus was in breach of a law that required people to retire at the age of 60. Another said his age was not the issue, but that the microfinance pioneer had breached the Grameen Bank's own regulations when he was appointed to his post in 2000 without the prior approval of Bangladesh's central bank.

Mr Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 with the intention of providing microcredit to impoverished Bangladeshis unable to obtain loans from commercial or government banks.

The bank has 2,500 branches and lends out $100m (£61m) every month to 9 million borrowers. Around 97 per cent of those it lends to are women. The bank has inspired others around the world and has won the support of high-profile figures such as Mary Robinson, former Irish president and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

But in recent months Mr Yunus has found himself at the centre of controversy. Not only have for-profit microfinance lenders been accused of exploiting their customers by a drive for dividends, but Mr Yunus himself was accused of impropriety by a Norwegian documentary. An investigation by the Norwegian government subsequently cleared him. Mr Yunus has always denied any wrongdoing and has attacked microcredit organisations trying to make profits from the poor.

Observers said the reasons for the bid to drive Mr Yunus from the Grameen Bank, in which the government holds a 25 per cent stake, appeared more likely to be related to animosity between him and Mrs Hasina that dates back several years to when Mr Yunus spoke of the need to reform politics and considered forming his own party. Mrs Hasina may covet the additional political leverage that greater control of the bank would bring. In December, she accused Mr Yunus of "sucking blood from the poor".

"She thinks she deserved the Nobel Prize, knows Yunus is the most famous Bangladeshi, and perhaps projects herself on to him, seeing him as a potential political rival with a base of [9 million] Grameen members," said David Roodman, a fellow at the Centre for Global Development in Washington.

Who will win this power struggle and how the dispute might end is unclear. Last night, the Grameen Bank said Mr Yunus was continuing in his position. "This is a legal issue. The Finance Minister has himself stated that this is a legal issue. Grameen Bank is taking legal advice," said the bank's statement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable