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Micro-lending genius Yunus: Why he was done wrong

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For years the government of Bangladesh has argued against high interest rates — which are part and parcel of the microfinance system because they permit it to cover intense administrative costs and to develop sustainably — as a way to bring down Professor Yunus. Recently, an excuse was served on a silver platter to government officials.

A Norwegian documentary accused Yunus of improperly diverting funds in 1996 that had been donated by the country’s aid agency. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promptly used the opportunity given by this documentary to assert that Dr. Yunus treated the Grameen Bank as his “personal property” and claimed that he was “sucking blood from the poor.”

As a result, on March 2 Yunus, who at 70 is full of youthful energy combined with sagacity, was relieved of his duties as managing director of the Grameen Bank on the legal basis that he was beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60. This is morally reprehensible. Clearly, the more likely reason was Yunus’ criticism of the government in recent years and his 2007 bid to start a political party.

On April 6, his appeal against forced retirement was rejected by the top court in Bangladesh.

No evidence of wrongdoing

The fact that the Norwegian government has said there was no indication Grameen ever engaged in corruption or embezzlement apparently was not taken into account in the Bangladeshi government’s action.

Nor did it take into account the fact that before the Nobel Committee decided to award the Peace Prize to Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank in 2006, it had thoroughly vetted them and found nothing to question their integrity. (A later study by David Bergman showed the allegations in the documentary were untrue).

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