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JS passes Grameen Bank Bill 2013

gb--1Parliament on Tuesday ( 5 November 2013) passed the Grameen Bank Bill 2013 to ensure absolute government control on the specialised bank, 75 per cent of which is owned by 83 lakh rural poor women, by reducing requirement for quorum in policy bodies and changing procedure of appointing the managing director.
The bill placed by finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was passed on voice vote rejecting amendment proposals brought by Jatiya Party MP M Mujibul Haque who also questioned whether prior permission was taken from the president of the republic to pass the bill complying with constitutional provision as it was a money bill.
Muhith initially admitted that the bill was a money bill but the conditions set in Articles 81 and 82 of the constitution for taking presidential approval were not applicable to it.
Muhith said the bill was initiated to bring some amendments to the mother
ordinance regarding the formation of the bank in 1983. He said amendments were brought only where it was required and upholding the honour of its founder managing director Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.
He said he personally preferred increasing the age limit of the bank’s managing director to 65 but did not change it to avoid controversy.
Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque opposed passing the bill saying such legislation ahead of the general election would give a wrong signal to the people.
Mujibul, who usually speaks against Yunus, praised the Nobel Laureate branding him champinion on women’s empowerment and self-reliance. He also claimed the credit that Muhith had drafted the 1983 ordinance at the instruction of his leader, HM Ershad, who was then chief martial law administrator.
‘Many criticise about the interest rate of the bank but it is true that the bank’s interest rate was much lesser that the rural money-lenders. It is Yunus who reached banking facility to the doors of people at the remotest nook of the country,’ he said.
The parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry was assigned to scrutinise the bill, enactment of which would repeal the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983, cleared the bill without change and submitted report to the House on Monday.
The bill made it mandatory for the bank board to consult the government in all policy decisions and fixed the tenure of elected or government-selected directors of the bank to three years from the previous indefinite period of time.
The bill made the bank mandatory to submit all its reports, returns and financial statements to Bangladesh Bank in addition to the government.
Nowhere in the bill it was proposed that the specialised bank would be controlled by the central bank but the changes would harness Grameen Bank under the authority of the central bank. Despite having the word ‘bank’ in its name, Grameen Bank was beyond the central bank’s control in the 1983 ordinance.
The bill would dissolve the existing Grameen Bank ordinance of 1983 but previous rules and regulations would remain in function with some amendments and exempt the bank from income tax for a certain period set by the government.
The authorised capital of the microcredit institution has been increased to Tk 1,000 crore and the paid up capital increased to Tk 300 crore with 25 per cent government ownership.
The bill bans using the name of the Grameen Bank in any prospectus or advertisement without prior permission of the bank and violation of it would result in one year jail along with Tk 100,000 fine, which previously was six months imprisonment along with Tk 1,000 fine. Production of untrue information to access loan or other facilities from the bank would incite a penalty of one year jail term or Tk10,000 fine or both.
Muhith in the statement tagged with the bill said the move of fresh legislation followed the Supreme Court verdict cancelling all ordinances promulgated during martial law regime. He said the bill was drafted in Bangla after updating it bringing required amendments.
The Grameen Bank was formed in 1983 under a military ordinance during the rule of HM Ershad.
Muhammad Yunus was its founding managing director from the beginning till Bangladesh Bank removed him in 2011 on the ground that he had crossed the permissible age for holding the post of the bank’s MD.
The position has since remained vacant.
In December 2010, a documentary aired on a Norwegian television alleged that Yunus had transferred foreign money, given to Grameen Bank, from one account to another. It heaved a wave of controversy both at home and abroad.
The government formed a commission to oversee the activities of Grameen Bank.


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