Minister blasted for demeaning Yunus

The Daily Star May 12, 2012

The comments made by two ministers criticising Prof Muhammad Yunus and microcredit have no merit and those reflect their inferiority complex, said political analysts and civil society members yesterday.

Authorities here should have celebrated the achievement of the Bangladeshi Nobel laureate, but they are instead ridiculing him, which is regretful, they noted.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday termed unwarranted the comment of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the US does not endorse any action of the Bangladesh government that undermines the success of Grameen Bank.

Dismissing comments of Prof Yunus and Grameen Bank supporters that the government was trying to take control of the bank, Muhith said, “Sorry to use the term rubbish again, but this is all rubbish. It is a government institution. It is running in the way it ran in the past,” said Muhith.

On Thursday, Awami League General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said Prof Yunus studied economics and he introduced a microcredit programme, but did not get Nobel Prize in economics.

Launching a blistering attack on the Grameen Bank founder, Syed Ashraf said, “These days many of us know how one gets Nobel Prize. There are some countries in the world where a person’s popularity increases if he has chips, sandwiches and white wine in there.”

Talking to The Daily Star, M Hafiz Uddin Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government, yesterday said such comments are regretful, malicious and envious.

“Professor Yunus’ fight is against poverty and for women’s empowerment and he established peace through his work,” he said, adding, “If he [Syed Ashraf] had any suspicion about Nobel Prize, he could have asked the Nobel Committee.

Salehuddin Ahmed, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the remarks by the two ministers have no merit and should be overlooked.

“We should have celebrated his feats, but we are belittling him. This is nothing but our inferiority complex, and the people worldwide will just be surprised,” he said.

This is a very narrow attitude, he noted.

Himself an economist, Salehuddin said microcredit had its negative and positive sides. Complete alleviation of poverty is not possible through microcredit, but it has immense contribution to poverty reduction.

Dr Akbar Ali Khan, another former adviser to a caretaker government, said politicians could disgrace anyone for political purpose.

“It is not possible to get Hitler and Mussolini now. In the twenty first century the biggest war is against poverty and for human rights,” he told ATN Bangla.

Dhaka University Professor Imtiaz Ahmed said he was frustrated by Muhith and Ashraf’s statements about Prof Yunus. “Their comments don’t merit response. Actually, there is nothing to say.”

These comments are mere political, and do not represent the feeling of the people of the country, said Prof Imtiaz.

Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said the whole issue had been politicised deeply and such comments form political leaders were undesirable.

“In a sense, those comments from political leaders are an example of political bankruptcy,” he told The Daily Star.

It seems all these have been done to divert public attention, he added.

BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said the prime minister lobbied to get Nobel Peace Prize. And as she has failed to obtain it, the ruling party leaders are vengeful to Prof Yunus.

“Prof Yunus created a new chapter in development and poverty reduction. The Awami League leaders are trying to defame him, as they are jealous of him,” said Alamgir at a meeting at BNP’s Nayapaltan office in the capital.

“The prime minister herself had lobbied for the Nobel Prize and invested money, but she failed as it is not possible to get this prize this way,” he added.