US concerned over Bangladesh intrusion in Grameen
The United States showed deep concern Sunday about the Bangladeshi government's expanding role in Grameen Bank, urging officials to ensure the pioneering microfinance institution's independence.
Bangladesh's cabinet ordered a new probe into Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus on Thursday to check for irregularities during his time as head of microfinance pioneer Grameen Bank.
The 72-year-old "banker to the poor" -- a leading anti-poverty activist with many powerful foreign supporters -- was forced from the institution last year, due to what his supporters say is a government vendetta against him.
"The United States is deeply concerned about recent actions the government of Bangladesh has taken to give the government-appointed chairman of the Grameen Bank Board control over the selection of the bank's new managing director," Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
"This move would diminish the role the largely female borrower-shareholders play in shaping the direction of an institution that has made a difference to millions of impoverished women in Bangladesh, and indeed around the world."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, heaped praise on Yunus during a visit to Dhaka in May and urged the government to maintain "an environment where civil society groups operate freely".
The same month Yunus expressed fears that the bank he founded to put his concept of microfinance into practice would be taken over by the Bangladesh government.
"We urge the Bangladeshi Government to ensure transparency in the selection of a new managing director who has unquestioned integrity, competence, and dedication to preserving Grameen Bank, its unique governance structure, and its effectiveness in bringing development and hope to 8.3 million of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, mostly women," Ventrell said.