Bangladesh Passes Bill to Tighten Control on Grameen Bank

    07 November, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    This week, Bangladesh's Parliament passed a law that brings the Grameen Bank under control of the country's Central Bank. Women directors of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh had promised to protest government moves to control the bank.

    Grameen means rural or village in the Bengali language. Grameen Bank's headquarters is in the capital, dhaka. 9 of the bank's 12 voting directors are currently village women. They recently condemned the new law. The Grameen Bank bill of 2013 will give Bangladesh's Central Bank the power to appoint 3 bank directors.

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent the bill to Parliament last week. The current directors question the government's right to seize control of the bank. They warn that this would destroy the success operation of a bank owned mostly by low-income women. They also called for future protests.

    Grameen was the first bank to make small loans to low-income people. Bangladesh economist Muhammad Yunus started the bank in 1976. Micro-lending quickly spread around the world. Such loan programs are now available in almost every country.

    Studies from many countries show the small loans have a powerful effect. Yet critics say it is not clear that such loans help families out of poverty. Some borrowers spend loan money to buy new things, instead of creating or expanding a business.

    In 2006, the Grameen Bank and Mr Yunus jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. A documentary shown in Norway in 2010 raised questions about bank practices. After the documentary, the Nobel Prize Committee expressed support for the bank and for Yunus. But the Bangladesh government began efforts to oust him.

    In 2011, a court in Bangladesh forced him from his position for violating a Retirement Age Law. In September of this year, the government accused him of not paying tax. Mr Yunus denied the accusation. Critics of the government say the campaign against the Grameen Bank and Mr Yunus began in 2007, when he suggested he might run for office to answer problems with corruption in Bangladesh.

    In recent speeches, Mr Yunus has said, he wants to create what he calls social businesses. He says social businesses would earn profits, but the profits would not go to owners. He say they would be used to help people and the environment.

    And that's the Economics Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.