Muhammad Yunus’s Ouster: The Plot Thickens

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 6, 2011

I wrote earlier about Muhammad Yunus’s forced ouster as the managing director of the Grameen Bank. This report informs us that the ouster may have taken place because of a belief in Bangladesh that Yunus had gotten too big for his britches:

He’s won the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s been hailed as a pioneering economist who brought hope to millions of poor Bangladeshis. And he’s adored by the international community.

Maybe Muhammad Yunus was just a bit too popular.

Bangladeshis have a word for it: hingsha, meaning jealousy or vindictiveness. Analysts say hingsha is a hallmark of national politics, and they say it may have played a role in Yunus’ ouster last week from Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution he founded nearly 30 years ago.

“This is hingsha,” said Golam Hossain, a professor with Dhaka’s Jahangirnagar University. “It’s a very active part of the culture in our society.”

Reading on in the story, we are informed that Yunus flirted with the idea of forming a third political party, which did nothing to endear him to the powers-that-be in Bangladesh.

I do not know how this issue will be resolved. Perhaps eventually, international pressure and outrage will compel the government of Bangladesh to reverse itself. Perhaps the Bangladeshi High Court will come out against the government’s efforts; Yunus and nine of the Grameen Bank’s directors have filed suit to prevent the government from removing Yunus. But in the meantime, anyone contemplating a microfinance venture in Bangladesh may be forced to think twice, lest he or she somehow incur the wrath of the Bangladeshi government.

Which of course means that the big losers in this entire mess are the impoverished people of Bangladesh, who rely on microfinance as a way to escape crushing poverty.

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