Questions on the Oppositon against Prof. Yunus forced retirement as GrameenBank MD

Dear all,
I again need your help as I do not understand so well why the Government's decision to ask Prof. Yunus' retirement from managing GrameenBank (GB) in Bangladesh has raised so much and loud attention. He is 70 years of age and local labor laws apparently state that people at 60 years need to retire. Furthermore, the local government is probably the single (one of the) largest shareholder (with Mr. Yunus’ consent I assume) of the banking institution and its central bank (probably the most reputable and impartial institution in that country) asked GrameenBank's manager to retire.
The founder of the Friends of Gameenbank, Marie Nowak of ADIE in France recognises what I said above. She goes on to state that GB is a social development institution, that it belongs to its borrowers, that its Board already decided to waiver laws and that Mr. Yunus could stay as long as he wants and that government should not meddle in its affairs. Mrs. Nowak promotes "Credit à Taux Zéro", zero interest rate loans for marginalised poor people in France, where her organisation ADIE is based and works. The French Government, the French Banks and their European colleagues have long time ago agreed with these kind of social lending NGOs that they are not banking organisations. Social lending organisations do not and cannot operate in the formal financial sector and Microfinance is defined as "lending to income generating activities for social purposes" falling in the European Union under Social Affairs. ADIE complies with the above national and European rules.
To add some figures to what the "Friends of GB" say. Since 2004 GrameenBank has many more depositors and deposits than it has borrowers and loans outstanding. This confirms common sense that states that poor people need to better manage what they have, in the uncertain, insecure and unstable environment they live in, than that they need to live on sure debt obligations. And furthermore, in 1983 the then Finance Minister gave GB an explicit exemption from the banking law that it could use the term "Bank" in its name, which was not a banking license in the sense of its central bank law.
It seems that GrameenBank in Bangladesh decided over a decade ago to become a self-sustainable banking business regulated by its central bank. It bended the banking rules somewhat but now regards that most challenges are situated with non-bank competitors that bend the rules more and represent "unfair competition". In that situation it also continues to embrace many other real businesses, such as in telecom and dairy, which is putting tension on Basle's world-wide supported principles of banking (for banks to keeping real sector businesses "at arm's length"). And it uses large aid funds in those businesses. Why does Prof. Yunus not want to comply with the country’s banking laws, labor laws and with its central banking instructions that seem to apply glocal best principles and practices? I am quite surprised that after 33 years as its manager, Mr. Yunus and GB have not been able to train and develop a large most competent management team to take ably over from him. A team that masters the difficult game in Bangladesh of leading a specialised bank that wants to integrate so far unbanked people, especially poor women.
To conclude, I am not as naive to ignore that in the reality of the local environment surely it makes sense to argue that it would serve GB's purposes to have at its helm a world super star. But what I consider by far more important is that Prof. Yunus has successfully developed a retail bank in Bangadesh that can support building an inclusive, sound and stable financial sector. Fighting central bank and central government with foreign support from people who do not want to be bankers committed to inclusiveness can put his enormous achievements in a bad daylight, even to GB’s customers and to the people of Bangladesh. It seems to me that he could have done better in the interest of the organisation he created and that set so many good examples for the world of Microfinance, Financial Sector Development and for the emancipation of poor and marginalised citizens.
Respectfully, Peter
 
Peter van Dijk
BSD City, Indonesia, March 2011
 

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