US envoy Mozena meets Muhith, discusses Yunus, TICFA

Dhaka, Aug 13 (bdnews24.com)

The Finance Minister has apparently reassured the US envoy on Monday that Grameen Bank would get a ‘strong’ and ‘internationally recognised’ managing director.

US Ambassador Dan Mozena and Abul Maal Abdul Muhith’s one-and-a-half-hour meeting also featured Padma Bridge and a bilateral framework agreement (TICFA) that the US has been pushing for.

মুহিতের কথায় ‘উদ্বেগ প্রশমন’ মজিনার

Mozena quoted the Minister saying ‘international standards would be followed in appointing the Grameen Bank Managing Director’, who will be filling rather large shoes as the new Grameen head would be replacing Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

The ‘unique governance structure’ of the bank and the power of its borrower-shareholders to appoint an MD would be retained, Muhith told the US envoy.

They discussed the issue as the US was ‘concerned’ over the matter, Mozena said.

The cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on Aug 2 approved a draft of ‘Grameen Bank Ordinance (Amendment) 2012’ to change the legal provisions for appointing the Grameen Bank boss.

Former MD, Muhammad Yunus, who shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with the bank, expressed his worries over the government’s ‘taking control of the Grameen Bank’.

Muhith and Mozena also discussed the World Bank’s withdrawal from the Padma bridge project where the lending agency was expected to provide $1.2 billion, which would have been the World Bank’s largest commitment ever.

The US would like to see Bangladesh do better in exporting information technology, leather goods, medicine and fish along with readymade garments, Mozena said.

He had once again made it clear last month that Bangladeshi products would not get duty-free access to the US market unless TICFA is signed.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes had said TICFA had not been signed as Washington had not been willing to negotiate the issue any further.

“There are some textual matters where the US side informed us that there was no scope for further negotiations,” he had told bdnews24.com.

 

Star Online Report

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozena on Monday conveyed to Finance Minister AMA Muhith his country’s concerns about the recent development on Grameen Bank.

After a two-hour meeting with the minister at the secretariat, the ambassador told reporters that he shared with Muhith about America’s concerns about some of the recent development centring the microlender.

He said they also talked about Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank and its importance for the development of Bangladesh.

“We agreed on the importance of sustaining the bank as strong and effective. We agreed on the importance of continuing the unique governance structures for the borrowers’ control of the bank,” Mozena said.

The ambassador said he discussed with the minister on the need for a strong, internationally recognised and credible new managing director of the lender.

“I was encouraged by the strong support from the minister to keep the bank strong and effective and to have a good, internationally recognised and credible new managing director,” he said.

The finance minister declined to talk to the press.

America is a strong supporter of Grameen Bank and Professor Muhammad Yunus, whose resignation from the bank last year has led to vacancy of the managing director post of the microcredit organisation.

The comments from the US ambassador come as the government amended the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983, apparently to give more power to the chairman, always appointed by the government, to pick the managing director, sidelining the board of directors, majority of whom comprising of grassroots members of the bank.

On the much-talked Padma bridge project, Mozena said he still hopes a way could be found to proceed with the project with the World Bank financing.

“America has all along strongly supported the Padma bridge. We have been a strong supporter of the bridge,” he said.

The ambassador also said negotiations on the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) are going on and the deal could be signed at some point.