The Story of Dr. Yunus And Grameen Bank
By Badruddin Umar
27 April, 2011
The government of Bangladesh did not snatch away Nobel Peace Prize from Dr. Muhammad Yunus which was bestowed on him by the imperialist powers, and in any case they have no power to do so. They simply have removed him from his post of managing director of Grameen Bank on legal grounds. This was done according to the rules of the Bangladesh Bank and the law of the land. The merit of this action was examined by the High Court, where Yunus filed a case appealing against the government decision. The High Court dismissed the writ after hearing from both sides. The case has been dismissed again by the Supreme Court as well.
The said action of the government against Yunus was taken for certain irregularities committed by him and it is a domestic matter of Bangladesh . We find that those imperialist powers, particularly the US government and the Clinton clique, who manipulated the Nobel Prize for Yunus, have very sharply and bitterly reacted against this decision of the government.
For a long time we have been critically analysing the activities of Yunus and the Grameen Bank just for the reason that very tall claims are being made on behalf of the Bank and for himself by Yunus. He claims to have invented a theory which says that the right to secure loan is a ‘birth right' of man. He claims that by extending loan to the poor, he has been successful in alleviating poverty in Bangladesh to a large extent and by 2030 he would send poverty to the museum as a relic of the past. While making this obviously ludicrous claim he exposes himself as a person who miserably fails to understand that poverty is not a thing, it is not an archaeological artifact, but the result of relations which exist between people in the course of production and other social affairs.
The Grameen Bank undoubtedly is a successful operator of small loans to rural poor like many NGOs, and has established a record in this which is far better than the ordinary commercial banks. For this achievement the Grameen Bank may be awarded an international award for its success in managing small loans. But it must be emphasised that it has nothing to do with peace. Moreover, Yunus himself was never found to protest against any kind of repressions on the people which are perpetuated by government agencies and other predator social forces. He was never found to utter a word against military interventions, aggressions and predatory wars of imperialists on countries of Asia , Africa and Latin America . He was never found to play any role in easing tensions or establishing peace between conflicting interests and groups in Bangladesh or anywhere else. He actually had never anything to do with peace. On the contrary, he had always fraternised with those who make wars and disturb peace at home and abroad. In spite of this he was awarded Nobel Prize for peace by the imperialist cliques to promote their political and other interests in Bangladesh . It was no surprise that he was given the Nobel Prize in 2006 suddenly on the eve of the military takeover of the administration in January, 2007.
Yunus managed the affairs of the Grameen Bank as an autocrat and like any other autocrat he had no compunction in committing irregularities. He was not accountable to anybody and did everything in a cavalier manner. He exercised the authority of appointing all employees and even directors. His appointment as Managing Director of the Bank had always been basically an act of his own, and in these matters the role of the Board of Directors was nominal. He took all major decisions over the head of the Board of Directors of which he was not a member. If the relation of Managing Director and the Board of Directors is examined, it will be found to be a very extraordinary arrangement. The Board always acted as an utterly subservient body to the Managing Director.
In all regards, the rules of Grameen Bank were extraordinary and the concessions granted to it by the government in conducting its affairs was in contradiction with all banking practices followed in this country. However, these administrative matters including the rules of conducting the business of Grameen Bank are not a matter of our real concern and we leave it to the Enquiry Committee which has been instituted by the government to investigate into the affairs of the Bank. Our real concern is the situation on the ground.
Here it is not possible to detail the consequences of small loan business of the Grameen Bank. But one thing must be made clear. We are not opposed to small loans or micro credit, because such loans are desperately needed by the rural poor, particularly the peasants and artisans who are engaged in production. Rural money lenders had always acted as such loan-giving agents for centuries during the feudal period and they still continue to do so. Fraudulently and mischievously, Yunus is glorified as the first ‘banker to the poor' who has redeemed the poor of the countryside, particularly the poor women whereas the fact is that the traditional rural moneylenders have historically performed the task of lending to the poor. Even the NGO's who were launched by the then World Bank President Robert McNamara in the ‘70s started lending to the poor before the establishment of the Grameen Bank.
The NGO's and the Grameen Bank were launched by the imperialists with the active help and co-operation of the government not for alleviating or eradicating poverty. Their principal objective in this was to perpetuate poverty and to distract the attention of the poor from political struggles for changing basic relations of production as well as social relations which create and preserve the conditions of poverty. Here there is no scope for elaborating this point but it is necessary to mention that the greatest noise is made for the Grameen Bank and its so-called mission for eradicating poverty by those who are the recognised enemies of the poor working people of the world including the people of Bangladesh . These noise makers represent the forces which exploit the poor everywhere, twist the hands of poor countries dependent on them and do not have the slightest compunction in wantonly attacking countries which dare to resist their advances. These are the countries which unhesitatingly bomb the poor in other countries and commit genocide as they recently did in Iraq and are currently doing in Afghanistan , Pakistan and Libya .
The reaction of these forces which include imperialist countries like the US, France, Britain, Germany and others of Europe and elsewhere and their lackeys and flunkeys in countries like Bangladesh is a clear indication of the interest which Dr. Yunus serves. It is insane to think that against whose removal from the post of Managing Director of Grameen Bank the imperialist powers are raising a hue and cry can, by any stretch of imagination, be a friend of the poor in any country and who can lead a programme for eradicating or even alleviating poverty of those who are subjected to the worst kind of exploitation by local ruling classes, governments and imperialist powers.
In this context, it is interesting to note that the loanees or borrowers of Grameen Bank, in no area of Bangladesh, has so far brought out any demonstration in favour or Yunus and against the government decision to remove him from the post of Managing Director. Recently, a handout of Grameen Bank says that about three million loanees have signed a protest statement against Yunus' removal. But demonstrations and protest statements are very different acts. It is very easy to get any paper signed by the loanees by local Grameen Bank officials.
And even then, there is no certain evidence that such a statement has actually been signed by 3 million loanees. The whole matter may be a lie and a fraudulent propaganda on behalf of a section of Grameen Bank officials loyal to Yunus.
In spite of this lack of support for Yunus from the Grameen Bank, loanees who are said to be the “real owners” of the Bank, it is amazing to see the kind of international support organised in favour of Yunus. They eulogise the achievements of Dr. Yunus in order of protect his position in the Grameen Bank. Under the presidentship of a former president of Ireland , a ‘committee of friends of Grameen' has been formed with its headquarters in Paris . On 30th March in a question-answer session of the French National Assembly, the French foreign minister Alain Juppe said, ‘‘the Grameen Bank's micro credit model has been unanimously recognised as a ‘magnificently successful' poverty alleviation tool and replicated across the world, particularly to help empower women in developing countries'' (Daily Star 1.4.2011). This statement of the French minister is no exception. The likes of this statement are being issued regularly by imperialist representatives and their flunkeys in Bangladesh . But the fact is that except the people who issue such statement no one recognises Grameen Bank micro credit model as ‘magnificently successful' in alleviating poverty in Bangladesh . No one recognises the role to Grameen Bank in empowering women in Bangladesh .
Women in Bangladesh are subjected to various kinds of exploitations and repressions all over the country, particularly in the rural areas. The poor women in the countryside are still the most oppressed among the people and are regularly victimised by the rural exploiters and oppressors including the mullahs who often deliver fatwas against them. Dr. Yunus of Grameen Bank fame was never found to protest, in any form, against such atrocities.
It does not require any great learning or wisdom to theoretically understand that poverty alleviation and empowerment of woman have noting to do with money-lending business whatever may be the terms of such lending. Even a modest survey of the situation on the ground in the rural areas reveals to any one that there has not been any perceptible poverty alleviation through disbursement of rural credit by the Grameen Bank or any other NGOs, though there may be some exceptional cases where some loanees have been able to improve their financial situation by making clever use of such loans.
No elaborate discussion on the ‘achievement' of Yunus is necessary to emphasise the point that his main achievement is management of the lending operation of the Grameen Bank. Its business has been extended to very large areas in Bangladesh , the number of borrowers from the Bank has reached, according to their own statement, up to more than eight million and that through a special mechanism of control its rate or realisation is 98%! This success would not have been possible without massive foreign financial contribution and many special concessions and privileges granted by the government to this Bank which are not available to other commercial banks.
The function of this banking business of Grameen is no different from that of traditional small loan business operated for hundreds of years by rural money lenders called mohajons . Basically, it helps small production carried out by peasants and artisans and various kinds of small scale economic activities. Thus the relentless propaganda carried out by imperialist circles and their flunkeys in Bangladesh has nothing to do with the actual work and ‘achievements' of the Grameen Bank and its famous Managing Director Dr. Yunus claims that the eight million loanees are the owners of the Bank and that they are regularly paid dividends. This claim is completely false and fraudulent. Any investigation on the ground reveals that no loanee of the Bank has any ownership document and more of them has any paper related to dividend no one reports to have ever received any dividend. But the stereotyped and ceaseless imperialist propaganda goes on and their international media, both electronic and print, extensively carry out such propaganda to which many well-meaning people fall victims.
Bangladesh Bank and the government of Bangladesh have removed Yunus from the post of Managing Director. The imperialists are saying that without him Grameen Bank would cease to function as an ‘alleviator of poverty' and will lose its character. It is a completely false and motivated propaganda because, as has been said earlier, it has no such character. What actually may happen after his removal is a series of reforms in Grameen Bank's operational practice which will bring some relief to the borrowers and reduce the profit of the Bank.
It may also reduce the inflow of foreign capital into the Bank and weaken the position of Dr. Yunus as an agent of multinational corporations who promote his ‘social business'.
The imperialists, through their massive image-building propaganda have tried to elevate Yunus to the position of a demigod, a redeemer of the poor and the downtrodden. They have tried to portray his activities as a panacea of poverty and a means of empowerment of women. The main objective in building up the image of Yunus in this manner is twofold. First to use him for opening investment opportunities for exploiting surplus from the poor of the country and secondly, and more importantly to use him for political purposes. This became quite obvious when he was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006, on the eve of military takeover of the Bangladesh government in which the US and the Europeans had a hand. Subsequently, Yunus attempted to usurp political power taking advantage of the then existing situation by trying to organise his own political party. His attempt failed miserably because of his complete personal inability to understand the political process and to take appropriate stops for building a party. Consequently, he soon proved himself to be a political flop. But the imperialists have not given up the hope of using him as their pawn in the political game which they may need to play in times of crisis. It is for this reason that the Norwegian government, after accusing him of financial dishonesty quickly retracted their position in order to save his image by exonerating him from charges which they themselves made against him.
The consternation in the imperialist circles after the removal of Yunus from the position of Managing Director of the Bank and the lining up of the NGOs and the gentlemen of the Bangladesh civil society behind him has completely exposed the true character of Yunus. It has also exposed the faces of persons and institutions in this country who act in the interest of imperialism as their flunkeys. It has clearly demonstrated that Yunus, the much advertised ‘banker to the poor' does not really represent the interest of the poor and the downtrodden in this country, but that of their national and international exploiters and oppressors. Whether may be the conspiracy of the imperialists, it will be difficult for them to use Dr. Yunus, with his “shining” anti-people and anti-poor image, as their political instrument on any future occasion of political crisis.
Badruddin Umar is a leading Marxist politician and historian in Bangladesh .
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