Foreign Policy Blogs

Grameen Founder Gets International Support, Yet Signals Intent To Leave Post

Dr. Md. Yunus has friends in high places.  Everyone knows that.  Under scrutiny following a Norwegian documentary that alleged financial malfeasance, Dr. Yunus was cleared of any accusations but remains squarely a target for the Awami League’s recrimination.  Under the aegis of an ad hoc rule that Grameen Bank needed the central bank’s permission to have him stay on as leader of the institution beyond the age of 60 and that failing to do so he has forfeited his leadership role, Dr. Yunus has, for quite the recent time, seen his name tagged under many newspaper headlines.  However, for all his rich friendships with powerful people his friends may not be able to help his current unnecessarily public situation.

Dr. Yunus was supposed to visit his good friend U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her offices in Washington D.C but had to miss the appointment due to his rather infelicitous legal problems, which surely stem from his rich popularity within a large portion of the electorate who have worked with him to smooth out their day to day hard lives.  Robert Blake, a U.S. State Department official made a visit to Dhaka to press the AL government’s prosecution on the matter.

Moreover Dr. Yunus enjoys support at the New York Times; Nicholas Kristof is a fan and has written about Dr. Yunus troubles in his column.  He has had a write-up recently in the Wall Street Journal.  Leaders in the NGO community have stood up for him in op-eds.  Indeed, nowadays Bangladesh’s foreign policy seems to turn on whether the government will work with or against the formerly leading light of Bangladesh’s domestic development policy, Grameen Bank and its founder.  Yet, for all the diplomatic declarations and international media glare, Dr. Yunus fate turns on the Sheikh Hasina led government’s next moves.

Now, to assert greater force, Nicolas Sarkozy,’s government has urged the AL government to accord Dr. Yunus a fair trial, diplomatic talk for his having taken a side against the government’s allegation that he broke the law when he stayed on in Grameen’s leadership well past the legally limited age.  Nevertheless the language isn’t quite overtly strong enough to avoid a thorough legal and judicial proceeding already well under way.

A government sponsored review committee will deliver its results to the AL government on April 10th.  There will be a separate Supreme Court hearing on the case next week.  Ahead of these proceedings, Dr. Yunus signaled that he will leave his managing directorship at Grameen Bank; his only worry is to leave Grameen’s future in steady and reliable hands. To that effect he has signaled that he’d like to stay on as chairman of the bank until new leaders take over the long-term leadership of the bank-the vision thing, as it were.

It’s quite important to note that that there is a public welfare component to  Dr. Yunus’ argument that he should stay on as chairman until he hands over power to a credible successor.  His argument is roughly that were that not the case, the bank’s 8 million borrowers and owners would default on their loans causing a run on deposits.  Even though this arguments sounds rather self-serving, he may be correct for indeed, with each passing day, Grameen’s future becomes less certain.  Dr. Yunus and the AL government must reach a compromise as soon as possible to avoid jeopardizing the loans and assets of the millions of poor borrowers, mostly women, who have helped make Grameen Bank what it is. Women, who in the process have won for themselves a measure of communal respect and dignity.

A view of the world in one’s skin, comfortable against all odds–that kind of standing is immeasurable.  Grameen for over thirty years has delivered people out of their own miseries and self-doubt.  And for that Bangladesh and Bangladeshis will remain indebted to this rather slight man who gave poor women back their dignity.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link: