Nobel Winner Removed From Bank He Founded
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports, the fight over Yunis's job is partly political and partly economic.
ANTHONY KUHN: But, asks University of Oregon anthropologist Lamia Karim, why is the government only bringing this up now?
LAMIA KARIM: Professor Yunis is 70 years old right now, and he is 10 years beyond the mandatory age of retirement. How could it take the government 10 years to find out?
KUHN: Yunis helped to make Bangladesh the crucible of a global microcredit movement aimed at combating poverty and empowering women. In a 2008 interview with NPR's Michel Martin, Muhammad Yunis explains why his bank targeted women.
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MUHAMMAD YUNIS: Today, we have seven and a half million borrowers. Ninety-seven percent are women, and the bank is owned by them.
KUHN: But Lamia Karim says that the current feud masks serious problems that have cropped up in the microcredit sector and that the government urgently needs to address.
KARIM: Women, poor women in particular, are getting deeper and deeper in debt. And this is largely because, similar to the banking industry in the U.S., microfinance for a very long time has been an unregulated industry. So people could go out and extend loans to people without any kind of oversight.
KUHN: Yunis and Hasina have been at odds for some time. Four years ago, Yunis began forming a political party when Hasina was in jail on corruption charges, and the country was under a military-backed interim government. Now, says Lamia Karim, people who borrow from microlenders constitute a formidable voting bloc, which makes the government wary.
KARIM: You know, Grameen Bank has almost eight million borrowers plus, you know, the members of those families that are indirect beneficiaries of these loans. So they can ask all their group members to vote for, you know, X or Y. So that's what makes them very nervous.
KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Bangkok.
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