Following the amendment of theGrameen Bank ordinance, giving power to the government appointed chairman to appoint a managing directorwhich remained stalled over the last one year , skepticism is now running highin the minds of the people as to how the government is going to remove concerns about the integrity of theorganization and the protection of its huge fund.
There is a growing fear in theeconomists and political observers as also among the common people that theGrameen Bank may face setback under new political control of the government andits funds may be misused or even siphoned by vested interest groups.
The fear is running highfollowing the disclosure that certain powerful syndicates are at work toswindle funds of major banks including Sonali, Rupali, Janata and Agrani Banksin the recent past. Alone from the Rupashi Bangla branch of the Sonali Bank, asingle business house has swindled over Tk 3,500 crore under the cover offictitious business firms or L/Cs opened in false names early this year.
The overall known swindled fundsfrom all four state owned banks so far stands at over Tk 6,000 crore andpointing to such mindless swindling of the bank money, deposited by public tobanks, people now wonder what are the safeguards of accumulated money in otherbanks and non-bank financial institutions at the moment.
They said vested quarters havelooted the country's stock market under the nose of the government. They arenow taking away money from banks with support from political bigwigs. Thegovernment appointed directors, most of them are political operatives andleaders of party front organizations, are taking advantage of their position insuch matters.
They are bringing pressure on themanagement board of state owned banks to sanction loans to dishonest parties onfictitious projects. And the same mayhappen to Grameen Bank once it will be in the government hand, most people fearhaving the sympathy to Nobel laureate Prof Mohammad Yunus and his co- NobelPeace Prize winning Grameen Bank as a global microcredit institution.
Former adviser of caretakergovernment Dr Mirza Azizul Islam and former governor of Bangladesh Bank DrSalehuddin Ahmed voiced concerns while talking to The New Nation last eveningand expressed dismays over the situation.
Salehuddin Ahmed said he did notunderstand why the government has become so serious about Grameen Bank at atime when many other banks and non-banking financial institutions are fallingapart and require inclusive protection and care.
Grameen Bank which has earnedname and fame for the nation was working smoothly and there was no need tobring changes to its legal foundation. The government move to intervene in itsaffairs is not desirable at all, hesaid.
He said the government may bedoing it to take away public attention from other cases of failures and moneylaundering. Otherwise there is hardly any justification to destabilize a goodglobal institution, he maintained. It is giving a bad signal to the globalcommunity for Bangladesh where private investment is not secured andprestigious sons of the soil is not respected, he pointed out.
He said the recovery of the moneyalready swindled by Hall Group or such other parties from the Rupashi Bangla branch of the Sonali Bank and otherbranches of this bank or other state owned banks will be quite difficult.
There should have been enough vigilancenot to allow the occurrence of the swindling in the first place; he said addingthat the central bank has failed to ensure it. Now the removal of the board or the move to punish the culprits as thecentral bank has suggested are alright. But the questions remain how to holdaccountable the political operatives and punish the bigwigs who helped tounlock the money from banks, he said.
Moreover, what are happening withother private commercial banks is not known, he wondered.
Mirza Azizul Islam said, much ofthe Grameen Bank's luck will now depend on the quality of the new managingdirector. If he is efficient, honest and properly understands the specialnature of the bank and its global dimension, it may be a good thing. Otherwisepolitical appointee may bring havoc to it, he fears.
He said, essentially it is a bankowned by the poor women; about 97 percent shares belonged to them. It should bea bad move if the new managing director wants to bypass them and thenmarginalize their presence and interest in the bank.
The nation will be watching thedevelopment, he said.