TCF announces entrepreneurship awardees

Source: Arab News
Date: Wednesday 5 November 2014

ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARD: TCF Board of Directors Chairman Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, middle, who is also the Saudi deputy foreign minister, meets Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. At left is Abdulaziz H. Al-Mutairi, TCF board member and GM.The Centennial Fund (TCF) announced the winners in the 2014 Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Global Entrepreneurship Award at a glittering ceremony at the upscale Ritz-Carlton Riyadh on Monday night.

“I congratulate the winners of the awards for what they have achieved because of their creativity,” said TCF board of directors chairman Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, who is also the Saudi deputy foreign minister.

Prince Abdullaziz bin Abdullah and Abdulaziz H. Al-Mutairi, a member of the board of trustees and GM of TCF, honored award recipients on the occasion.

The prince thanked everyone who had helped to make the event as successful as it was, including Sabic and Shell, represented by Patrick Van Daele, vice president and country chairman.

Prince Abdulaziz also congratulated Muhammad Yunus, who had earlier been chosen for the 2nd Global Entrepreneurship Award (GEA-2014).

Prince Abdulaziz said that TCF was keen to serve the community and society with the holding of the entrepreneurship forum, which had been held earlier on Monday morning. He noted that it was taken part in by well-known local and foreign experts on entrepreneurship and that it was made possible with the full support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

The prince said that it was one of the TCF’s objectives and that it was significant to the national economy. He also noted the TCF’s achievements.

“I take this opportunity to thank King Abdullah for the support TCF has received to help fulfill the dreams and aspirations of the youth in this country,” said the prince.

Speaking with Arab News earlier on his behalf, Abdulaziz H. Al-Mutairi, TCF general manager and a member of the board of directors, said that Prince Abdulaziz hoped that young Saudi entrepreneurs will grow by going global.

He said that TCF would help them by give them training under its 35,000 trainers in different colleges and universities all over the Kingdom.

Khaled Alolaiwi, a young Saudi entrepreneur, lauded TCF’s plan and goal, saying that “it will go a long way in helping the Saudi economy grow.”

Alolaiwi manages Tarjamat Office, which rendered simultaneous interpretation services on the occasion.

Yunus, who introduced micro-finance in Bangladesh, also talked on the occasion, saying that he started his mission to help the poor by lending $47 dollars to 20 people.

He said that this became very successful and, as a result, many people also approached him for loans.
“I eventually went to the banks to convince them to lend money to youth and I was asked as guarantor. This was in 1976,” he told the audience.

He started Grameen Bank, which already has $8.5 billion in assets and has helped about 8.5 million families.
“Thousands of family members that received help from Grameen Bank have become successful in their chosen endeavors. Many have become doctors,” Yunus said.

He added that “there’s a big difference between the first and second generations of Grameen Bank borrowers.”
He said that he had told borrowers that they “should come up with a social business and create jobs to help solve human problems and get away from profit-making.”

“The mission should be to solve people’s problems, create social businesses and invite others to become entrepreneurs. As a result, we received several applications. In social business, no profit and loans are made available without interest,” he said.

He added, “Whatever amount we give to borrowers, they should return it without any profit for us.”

He added that society-created systems are responsible for unemployment.

“Everything should be geared toward stability,” he said.

Grameen Bank has expanded by establishing branches overseas. “We have two in Los Angeles, two in San Francisco, and one each in Boston, Nebraska, and Charlotte. Our average loan in the United States is $1,500,” he said.

He added that “What we’re doing is not a Bangladeshi phenomenon. It’s global. The first mission for an aspiring entrepreneur is to learn how to entrepreneur,” he said.

His book, “Banker to the Poor,” contains the concepts and ideas on micro-lending which Yunus espouses.

The other winners of the 2014 Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Global Entrepreneurship Award were: Amer Bukvia for best pioneer project (Bosnia Herzegonina); Muhammed Asfor, best existing project (Bahrain); Sara Al-Otaibi, best female pioneer (Saudi Arabia); Aminah Al-Hawaj, co-winner as best female pioneer; Asma Gaith, best female mentor (Egypt); Lojain Al-Jabbawi, best business plan (UAE); Abhishek Garodia, best project (United Kingdom); Tareq Mansour, best pioneer, 2nd place, Egypt; Thamer Al-Fanshuthi, best male mentor (Saudi Arabia); Khaled Al-Khodair, best existing project, 2nd place (Saudi Arabia); Nasser Muhammed Al-Jasuin, best existing project, 3rd place (UAE); Fidah Abu Turki, best female pioneer, 2nd place (Palestinian Authority); Yusuf Jamjoom, best existing plan, 2nd place (Saudi Arabia); Amal Al-Rumah, best existing project (Saudi Arabia); Ayan Aramadi, best project idea, 2nd place (Palestinian Authority); and Khaled Saed Al-Zahrani, best project idea co-winner, 2nd place (Saudi Arabia).

The Ripple Effect - Women Powering Work Through Microfinance And Entrepreneurship


Source: Ashoka UK - Tue, 29 Jul 2014
Author: Reem Rahman

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

When Roshaneh Zafar quit her job at the World Bank in 1995 to establish the Kashf Foundation, she carried with her a moment of inspiration and a powerful vision for the future. These came from a chance meeting with Muhammad Yunus, which instilled a strong belief in empowering women—socially and economically—through the Grameen Bank model. Ten years later, after plenty of opposition along the way, she has proven her critics wrong by showing that women-centered and women-managed microfinance programs in Pakistan can indeed flourish and succeed. Beginning with 15 clients in 1996, Kashf now boasts approximately 500,000 families. The organization has not only provided women with ${esc.dollar}265 million in loans, but it has also expanded to provide women with education, training, and employment opportunities. I caught up with Roshaneh to talk about her journey and the key lessons in motivation, strategy, and creating impact that she’s learned along the way.

What is the inspiration that led you to the field of women’s empowerment in particular?

In Pakistan, 51% of our population is considered to be gainfully employed, but their work is not recognized. Women do contribute to the economy but a lot of times through informal activities for which they aren’t remunerated. One of our key challenges is to build the business case for investing in women’s economic work, which is something that blends both microfinance and gender issues.

When we started working in microfinance with the aim of empowering women economically and alleviating poverty within their families, we came up against many challenges, the first being: How do we convince a woman to take loans, invest them in a business and then make financial choices to enhance revenue? It is because we have these challenges that we continue to do what we do. We got involved to change social dynamics, and this won’t happen without women’s involvement in the economy.  For us it is an imperative.

Why did you choose microfinance?

With social sector projects, it can often take a generation to see any real change. However, with microfinance, this is fast-tracked. The moment the women with whom we work start earning that extra ${esc.dollar}10, ${esc.dollar}20, or ${esc.dollar}30—things begin to change in the household. They are able to make choices for themselves and for their children, in terms of what they eat, what they wear, and where they study, and the long-term decisions they make for their future.

Another reason we do microfinance is because of the ripple effect: you change one woman, she’s going to change ten more. To give you a simple example: we all know that social contact enables people to progress and access further opportunities.  In Pakistan, most women are connected only to their families; they do not have the opportunity to socialize with women who are non-relatives. The introduction of microfinance is changing this. Now there are communities across Pakistan where it’s the norm for women to leave the house to go to a meeting or to take part in a financial education program—and people don’t question it. These women are the role models for current and future generati

What are current challenges that you face through your work in the field of women’s empowerment?

In Pakistan, we have great laws for women’s empowerment, but they’re not being implemented, which creates a gap. This is something that the UN is aware of. If you’re talking about broader issues like education and healthcare, then of course we know that those are areas that need to be worked on before women can be empowered.

However, if we think about the individual female entrepreneur, there are four specifics that affect whether or not she is successful:

-Impact reach (where and how she is selling her product)
-Access to training and education (to produce new products and diversify)

This is what the entrepreneurs with whom we work told us. We’ve done a lot of research on this through our “Business Incubation Lab,” which supports women who are running businesses and helps them scale those businesses up.

Finally, there are challenges around gender and microfinance. We may claim to work for women, but are we measuring the right things—who is using the loans, who is making the financial decisions—to ensure this is the case?

What would you highlight as the two biggest, most exciting opportunities on the horizon?

Chancellor's opening speech at the Graduation Ceremony of Glasgow Caledonian University - June 2014

Principal and Vice Chancellor, Pro Vice Chancellors, Chairman of the Court, Members of the Court and the Senate, Distinguished Guests, Members of the Staff of Glasgow Caledonian University, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my privilege to welcome you to this graduation and awards ceremony.

The graduation ceremony is one of the most memorable events in anybody’s life. This comes at the end of a long journey of academic and social preparations. This ceremony tells you that you are now prepared to begin your life to achieve your life purpose.

I must remind you that you are the most powerful young generation in human history. You are powerful because you have the most amazing technology at your command which no other generation could even dream of. Make sure you know that you are different than all other generations. Make sure you use that power. If you don’t, it will all be wasted away. Make sure you use it for grand purposes, not squander it away for silly purposes. Get ready to make all the impossibles possible. You can create a new world which no other generation could do. Because you are supermen and superwomen.

Present world has many problems; unemployment, poverty, unnecessary deaths in the absence of simple and almost costless health services. You can change it all. That’s what this graduation ceremony is all about. It tells you that you are ready to get into action. Go ahead, and create a world which will be different, which will be way much better. Go ahead, and create a world where there will be no poverty. Only place you can see poverty will be the poverty museums. There will be no unemployment. The world ‘unemployment’ will die of natural death because of non-use. No one will live on state charity, because nobody will be unemployed and without income. There will be no global warming. Each day the world will become more safe than on the previous day.

This university will be proud of you because you have learnt how to use your power to change the world. Use this university, your alma mater, as the hub of all your creative initiatives. We would like to learn from you, and pass this learning to the next generation of young people so that they can follow your examples.

Congratulations to all of your for qualifying to attend today’s graduation ceremony. Congratulations to all the parents who are present here to witness the great moment in the lives of their sons and daughters. Congratulations to the friends and relatives for being here to make this event memorable. Let us give our combines best wished to these young men and women for their journey ahead.

Now I have the great pleasure in declaring this Graduation and Awards ceremony, open.

Let us celebrate the day and make it uniquely memorable.

Thank you.


Through micro-credit, the new economy imagined and practiced by Muhammad Yunus is now recognized around the world. And benefits directly or indirectly to nearly 300 million people. If he refuses the term “philanthropist”, the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 wants to be the Ambassador of “social business”. During his stay to Paris, he answered questions of Le Monde des Fondations et du Mécénat.

Do you consider yourself as a philanthropist?

If philanthropist means giving a lot of money, so I’m not. I’m trying to achieve similar goals to philanthropy but in resorting to models of companies. Therefore money is recycled again and again. If philanthropist means giving his own money to help others in charitable way, so I’m not your guy!

You say that philanthropic money has only one life, what do you mean?

In the context of education, for example, when an educational project is supported, you give money to someone, and once the person has finished his studies, money is lost. What I set up in Bangladesh is the granting of loans to students in order to finance their studies. As it is a loan, once that person has a job, she must repay the loan. This money, once it is repaid to the lender, will again be lent to someone else. Indefinitely, a sum of money can be used for years; this is what makes the difference between philanthropy and “social business”.

Another example, the “Grameen Eye Care Hospital”, created in Bogra works through cross-subsidization, that is to say that the richest people pay the full price and the less wealthy pay only what they can pay in general glasses and frames, but they don’t pay for additional services. The very poor people receive the same service simply by paying 1 dollar. This project could have been done in a philanthropic way that is to say that we could give money and distribute free glasses, except that every year, it would have put money to restart the pump. The specificity of this hospital is that it is really a “social business” because it lives with a business model because it sells, accessible even poorer because the rich pay more. The money from the “Grameen Eye Care Hospital” was brought by the Grameen Group, but eventually everyone could finance this kind of project an individual, a fund, a bank, in fact everyone can do this type of boot initiative.

You’ve created the Grameen bank in 1976, what do you remember about that time?

Grameen Bank was created at a time when the country was in a situation of extreme poverty, with 80% of the population living below the extreme poverty. The situation was really terrible because people had no home, nowhere to sleep so down, there was not toilet, the children were skinny and women had only one clothe, and when the women washed it and if it was raining, the clothe will not dried, they could not leaving home.

What is interesting is that this period marks the beginning of the Grameen, and you do not have happy memories?

At first, it was difficult to try to replace the loan sharks who applied really high credit rates. For example, when women wanted to buy bamboos to make baskets, it cost them dearly, but once they had sold their baskets, loan sharks took up all the money to cover the interest rate. That the Grameen Bank’s main contribution is that women have been able to keep a small profit of these transactions and they have managed to develop a livelihood with what he had left.

Today they are 300 million people that are benefiting for micro credit in the world, what do you think about this?

This is a huge number! This can transform people’s lives because it allows them to generate a small income. However, this number is still not enough! Today with 30 years of experience, we know how it works and so it should be much more common because it is not millions but billions of people who should have access to credit. I am telling you, the micro credit should be making part of human rights!

Are you proud of what you achieved?

I am happy that all this is possible! Today experience has shown that it was possible to provide micro-credit to the poor but also the rich people, both those who live in rural or urban areas, the people who are immigrants or not or again people who are a little left behind. Micro-credit works, today it should be better integrated into the formal financial system. The financial crisis of 2008 has released the need to rethink and recreate the economic system because it showed major weaknesses: it is necessary to provide it more universal and it is especially redesigned including populations.

You had with Grameen Bank, Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Are you sensitive to these recognitions? What is the most important for you, the awards or congratulation of people?

These rewards are very important because it is so much opportunity for governments to show that they adhere to actions. When I collected the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 or the Golden Medal of the U.S. Congress in 2013, I thought “ if you endorse my actions, it must pass laws to make it possible”. Each time there is a reward; it weakens the opposition and reinforces adherence.

Can you tell us about the links between you and the Crédit Agricole ?

Eight years ago in Bangladesh, I met Georges PAUGET, former general manager of Crédit Agricole and Jean Luc PERRON, today general delegate of Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. They wanted to create a microfinance initiative. I told them there was a great need of funding for microfinance institutions. Together we have created the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. During the inauguration, there were many famous people like President CHIRAC. Georges PAUGET left his position but his successors took over and set up an investment fund. I hope other banks will follow this example.

How do you see now your future? Do you feel that you are like an ambassador for micro finance and social business? Are you already thinking about something new that you would like to develop?

Today “social business” includes microfinance but in fact the “social business” is much broader than microfinance. In fact, with “social business”, we can speak of employment, environment, technology is a limitless tool. My goal, right now is to try to explain what “social business” is and what can be done with it. My wish is that in 2020, 5% of the global economy will be invested in “social business”. If this happen we could live in a totally different and much more positive economy.

Source: Le Monde des Fondations et du Mécénat

Microcredit system empowered the poor across the world - Muhammad Yunus

Source: RT
Published on: Jan 06, 2014

The banking system has existed for centuries – revered by some, hated by many, yet still a vital part of modern economies. But this man managed to breathe a new life into it, giving a helping hand to those who need money most. The pioneer of the microfinance financial strategy that lifted millions out of poverty, Muhammad Yunus, is today’s guest on Sophie&Co.

Follow @SophieCo_RT

SS: Our guest today is Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner, the pioneer of microfinance – the financial strategy that’s lifted millions out of poverty. Mr. Yunus, first of all I will start by saying we’re really glad to have you on our program today. And I’m just going to go ahead and start with the question that all our viewers are asking. How soon can borrowers pay back their debt to your bank? Is there a risk being indebted for life to your bank, for example?

MY: In the bank, the time period to repay the loan is chosen by the borrower, so you can pay it back in one month, you can pay back in one year, six months, three months – whatever suits the sides, or two years, it’s flexible. Conventionally, within Grameen Bank, most of the borrowers like the annual cycle. Within one year in weekly installments you pay back your loan and then you borrow another one and continue to do that. And there is no question of getting into debt burden.

SS: But what happens if you cannot pay annually?

MY: It’s up to her. If she says, “I cannot pay back within 52 weeks of one year, I need a few weeks more,” we will reschedule it, as long as she wants to pay, we have no problem, we’re not here to punish her for a time period, we’re here to help her, so that she can use the money and earn enough money because this all is an income generating loan, in other words you invest in something which will generate income and you pay back the bank and you still have some money left for you out of your income. So, the time period is not a big concern for us, it’s up to you. And if you say, “Well, I’ll totally pay back in six months but then in the fifth month I find out that I’d need more time than six months,” you’ll say it and we’ll reschedule for another one, whatever number of months you need.Because after all, when you’re paying back we have no grudge against you or any other thing. We don’t want to make any problem for the borrowers, we’re not in a penalty mood for anybody. We’re not punishing anybody for anything. We want to be helpful for them, so they find it convenient; they find it helpful to deal with the bank.

SS:I know, your organization was originally created to help people, but what happens if your borrower cannot generate income after borrowing money?

MY: Sure, it’s possible that a business is failed – for example, a borrower took a loan to buy a cow and she [paid it off very well in the first month, but] in the third month the cow died, she cannot pay back anymore, so we don’t punish her for the death of a cow, we consult with her with the group members how best to help her. And they will say if they want, say, another loan will be happy to do that, so borrowers come back and say she wants to take a loan for another cow, so we’ll give another fresh loan. The old loan is never forgiven, it’s not wiped, it’s not written off, it’s still in the book but your main concern now is to pay back the second loan and then, on top of it, if you pay a little bit more, which will go in the first loan, that is fine with us. In practice, the first loan becomes a long-term loan. It doesn’t put a heavy burden on her but the second loan becomes a loan for another year or so. We try to solve the problem within our means, within our rules, so the rules should not be to punish her.

SS: The Grameen microfinance bank in itself is a huge institution. It is impossible to control all its activities personally. Surely, it’s possible that some bad practices could have occurred in the bank’s operations, no?

MY: Possible in the organization, you talk about government, you talk about big businesses. There are some people who’ll make wrong things, bad judgment and so on. It happens in the Grameen Bank also. But compared to any other big launched nationwide institution, I would say the Grameen Bank is almost free from those mistakes, insignificant number of mistakes happen and we try to rectify it and we try to it put in a system where you can detect any fault, any problem, that arises in the system, because that system is computerized so that you can check it right from your head office what’s going on in the remote villages and in the remote branches. We work it all over Bangladesh, every single village in Bangladesh has access to domain bank microcredit program, so we have borrowers all around the country, we have 8.5 million borrowers, 97 percent of them are women. They are all connected within our system. I should mention that the bank is owned by the borrower, so the borrower is not somebody outside this; she is in control, she is the borrower and she is the owner, and she sends a representative to sit in the board, whoever is making a decision is actually her representative and a borrower like her. So, it’s not something in some big banks when somebody came and give you a loan, and they don’t know you and you don’t know them, it’s not like that, it’s a family kind of thing, it’s 8.5 million women’s family. So, we work at it as a kind of organization to be with them and for them.

SS:It was reported recently that Gremeen’s model in South India has in recent years been distorted by venture capitalism, profit makers. Rural families may face debt spirals, forceful debt collections, which in some occasions have led to suicide. Are you aware of this?

MY: Yes, one thing I want to correct, it is not the Grameen model. If it is a Grameen model, it will not going to [raise finance through an] IPO and so on. We’re not in that business, we’re not here to make money out of our activity. So, they’ve deviated from the Grameen model, that’s why all the problems took place. They wanted to make it a money-making enterprise for shareholders, so they wanted to take the side of people saying, “If you lend money to the poor people, you can make a lot of money out of it.” I think that is totally opposite of the Grameen Bank system, the Grameen Bank system is to help poor people, poor women particularly, to change their life. And nobody is trying to make money out of them. Those who want to make money out of them by misusing the Grameen concept; they turn the whole thing into a loansharking direction. And we oppose to loansharking, that how we were born – opposing loan sharks. We don’t want microcredit or the Grameen Bank to be used to become a loan shark, that’s why we condemned it and we said it’s an entirely wrong thing, they shouldn’t even use the word “microcredit” for themselves, that’s for the loan of the Grameen Bank microcredit.

SS: You’re saying these kind of things don’t happen in Bangladesh, there are no families that have actually being worse off after borrowing money in Grameen than before…

MY: In Bangladesh there are many, many microcredit programs, including the Grameen Bank itself. None of them is devoted to making money for any individual person, any collection of shareholders. It’s all dedicated to serve the people. As I said in the Grameen Bank itself, it is owned by the Grameen Bank borrowers. So, the question of making money from the people doesn’t arise. In Bangladesh those kinds of deviations didn’t take place, it took place in India and Andhra Pradesh - the one that you’re mentioning. We condemned it very heavily, we wrote about it, we made press statements and wrote editorials about it. Similar thing happens in Latin America, particularly in Mexico through one of institutions there, and we condemned it too. They also wanted to make an IPO and get business people excited that “you can invest in microcredit and make a lot of the money out of the poor people,” which is a totally wrong message.

SS: Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, dismissed you from Grameen Bank in 2010, saying that you were older than the mandatory retirement age of 60. First of all, how painful was this decision for you? Did you retain some say in Grameen Bank after your retirement?

MY: As I said, it’s very painful because it was done in a kind of inconsiderate way, because we were not taken as a government bank, government applied the government bank rule onto Grameen Bank, saying that we‘re not following the Grameen Bank’s rules of retirement. We said this is a bank owned by poor women. We have our own rules, our law allows that, so this restriction about age limit doesn’t apply to Grameen Bank and our board is very clear on that. But in any case I was asked to resign, so I resigned and came out of it. But that doesn’t mean the whole Grameen Bank suddenly became a foreigner to me, this is a part of my life, this is a part of me, this is a part of my family, so I feel that I belong to the Grameen Bank family, whether I’m in a position of decision-making or executive position, or I’m not. This is my baby, I worked together and people who worked there is a part of my team, we always work together since is the very date it was born, when it was a little infant. We nurtured it and helped it to grow, and it has grown nationwide, and the Grameen idea has spread all over the world. I still go around and do that, that position has not changed, that relationship has not changed.

SS: So you’re someone like a senior consultant to the bank now without really having real power in meddling in its affairs, right?

MY: I would not say, these words sound very commercial. My relationship is not a commercial relationship, I’m just a friend. I would say I’m a friend, I would still feel as part of the team. I don’t hold a position within the bank - that doesn’t mean my views are ignored within Grameen Bank because they look up to me, because they know that every single procedure, every single methodology within the Grameen Bank – I’ve built them piece by piece, so they look up to me for guidance.

SS: So, just to talk a little bit more about what happened with Grameen Bank and you. Prime Minister Hasina wanted to split the bank into 19 groups, you rejected that idea, which probably also played a part in your downfall. On top of that, the Bangladeshi government has this idea to actually bring Grameen Bank under the Central Bank’s jurisdiction. What’s wrong with all of that?

MY: Well, this all came for political reasons; there is no complete issue about that. I mean, by dividing up and splitting up the Grameen Bank in 19 pieces only – you’ll destroy the bank. If somebody wants to destroy the bank, that’s the best way to do this – cut it up, chop it off and it’s gone. That idea was dismissed by government as it is not in favor of chopping it off, they would rather do something else. But in any case behind everything else it looks like there is an attempt to control Grameen Bank. And the law that we started out with makes it very clear that it should be guided by its own board. A board is ultimate decision-making body. But the present government somehow didn’t like that, so they want to intervene into the activities of Grameen Bank. And that’s why all these 19 pieces and all control mechanisms, and changing the law, amending the law to intrude into the bank – all these things came about. And this seems to be not very friendly to the bank itself and any action that is being taken, and nobody in the world will say that it is in the interest of the bank or the poor people. I’m very worried about it and I try to draw attention of everybody, every sane person that, look, you have to stop that, this is a great institution, this brings so much good for the people, particularly poor families and poor women in the world. That has given so much empowerment to the women in Bangladesh and that is becoming a global phenomenon, bringing the same thing in many, many countries. Almost every single country, including Russia, has microcredit programs. So, today, to go back to the origin of that whole idea, Grameen Bank, and to harm it – it will be totally painful and unacceptable.

SS: Bangladesh’s government has launched legal actions against you for overseas tax evasion. You were ousted from being boss of Grameen Bank, for working past retirement age, the Finance Minister alleges you have wrongly received tax exemptions, while being a chief of a public institution between 2004 and 2011…a lot of accusations in a very short period of time. Where are they coming from? And why now?

MY: Now? Because the present government finds it appropriate for them to do it for political reasons. All the allegations that you have listed, again and again have been demonstrated, we sent all the information to the public to make sure that they understand it’s all baseless, there is no ground for it. For example, the case of tax evasion, it was decided in the cabinet meeting that my tax information should be examined by the tax authorities and that report should be submitted to the cabinet itself, the cabinet of ministers. They did that, they said we’ve investigated every detail, so Professor Yunus has tax returns and if he did everything correctly, we have no problem, we have not missed any single penny in taxes, so we have no problem with that. But the cabinet was not satisfied with that report, they sent it back again to make more inquires so that they can find something else. This is a kind of thing, tax authorities keep coming back and in the final report tax states as well: “Only one thing we can say, that probably he didn’t ask for permission to make this income, to go to foreign countries and make speeches and accept honorarium for them. He needed [this] under government law, he needed permission.”

Then our position is that it was never a government bank, so the question of taking permission has never arose and a board never felt that I need permission from the government. Then government itself is saying that since by 2000 I became 60 years old, after that I’m no longer a valid managing director. All this information that government is seeking about this context is after 2000. So, if I’m not a government servant – according to them that I was not the government servant after 2000 - the question of taking permission from the government doesn’t arise at all. So again, it makes no sense. Every single one of them have said that I’ve just transferred a lot of money from Grameen Bank to my private organization, private companies - and I made it very clear to the people in Bangladesh, that not only I don’t have private organization of my own, I don’t own any single share in any company anywhere. The question of me owning anything doesn’t arise because I don’t own anything. That is very clear. The question of transferring money to my organization doesn’t arise. Then they I said, you’ve transferred money to another Grameen organization – yes, I did, because that was the requirement of the agreement between the donor organization and Grameen Bank. The Norwegian authority, whose money was involved in that- Mr. Erik Solheim, Development Minister - he made a very clear statement that whatever was done, was done legitimately, there was nothing wrong in doing it. So he made it clear too.So there’s no basis behind those accusations, and about 60, and the retirement, etc.

SS:It does look like that the government just wants you out of the picture. I’m justtrying to figure out why. Do you represent some kind of threat to them?

MY: You can make speculations, I mean the press makes up a lot of speculation and anybody is entitled to speculation, but definitely nothing of that thing that has done looks rational to anybody in the world, both within Bangladesh and outside Bangladesh. Many people, many leaders around the world protested against what is happening to Grameen Bank, and many people inside Bangladesh protested, even the opposition in Bangladesh today which is very powerful opposition. They said everything this current government is doing with the Grameen Bank, if the opposition comes to power, they will undo everything they have done because they have done it so wrongly, so badly, so they will do that. Nobody has supported this cause at all…and the borrowers of Grameen Bank, who are the owners of Grameen Bank.

SS:I know that you have been an outspoken critic of successive governments in Bangladesh, not just this particular government. Plus, like you said, you have 8.3 million borrowers. That also constitutes some political force on its own in Bangladesh? It’s a lot of people.

MY: That’s another explanation. This said that probably government sees a political benefit in controlling Grameen Bank, so they can get some political mileage. Again, this is speculation. I cannot say whether this is true or not. But it’s a fact, that’s an organization which is about 1/4 of the total population of Bangladesh - is within Grameen Bank’s area. So we are linked to that 1/4 of the population, which means 1/4 of the voters are included within the Grameen Bank. Definitely, politicians could look into it in that way to their favor. Again, as the same logic you may say then government should be friendly to the Grameen Bank, rather than confronting the Grameen Bank. That doesn’t make sense. Why do irritate all these people who are in the Grameen Bank by taking away their rights. When you’re taking their rights they won’t be your friend, they will oppose you. So, politically it doesn’t look like very sane step on the part of the government.

SS: People in Bangladesh saying that you are someone of a hero, plus you disagree with many of the things this government was doing. Why don’t you run for presidency yourself?

MY: Well, I don’t want to be in politics. That I’ve made it very clear again and again in 2007, when there was a vacuum, political vacuum, many people in Bangladesh tried to persuade me to join politics. That time under pressure I said OK, I’ll join politics and I’ll create a political party. But within ten weeks I came back and said I’m not going to join politics and I’m not going to create a political party. Since then I’ve even never thought about joining politics or creating a political party of my own. And I told whatever I’m doing is so much important that I do concentrate on that. If you get into politics, and Bangladesh politics is not such an exciting life in terms of corruption, in terms of environment of politics, I thought this is not the kind of environment I can work with. I work in a way where I see transparency, where I feel comfortable, and I don’t feel that much comfortable at other sites. I want to stay away from that.

SS:How will the possible demise of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh affect its followers all around the world?

MY: First of all, I don’t think there will be the demise of Grameen Bank, there will be damage to the Grameen Bank, not demise of the Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank is a very well established organization; it’s a very strong organization, financially strong organization, institutionally very strong organization. I don’t think anybody can bring demise to it. But lots of harm in a short time can be done, and then our job, meaning my job, my colleagues, that team that built Grameen Bank, and the borrowers themselves, is just to go back and fix it and make sure that it’ll become not only strong, it’ll become a stronger organization. I’m sure, we will get support from the public, we will get global support, and our supporters and our admirers around the world will be proud of us.

SS: Our guest was Nobel Prize winner and pioneer of microfinance, Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus. Thank you for watching and tune in for the next edition of Sophie & Co. tellyseries