PM blames Dr Yunus for cancelling WB finance to Padma Bridge

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SANGSAD BHABAN : Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said former Grameen Bank Managing Director Dr Muhammad Yunus lobbied with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to terminate World Bank’s commitment of financing the Padma Bridge project.

Replying to a supplementary question from Jatiya Party member AKM Maidul Islam in the parliament today, the prime minister said Dr Muhammad Yunus turned furious with us after losing in the legal fight for the post of the managing director of Grameen Bank.

“Then his wrath fell on the Padma Bridge project. An editor of a renowned newspaper of our country met the then World Bank President Robert Zoellick and lobbied with Hillary to cancel the finance,” the prime minister told the House.

Even releasing no fund for the project the World Bank raised the allegation of corruption against me and my family members, which was completely a vengeance of Dr. Yunus, she said.

The prime minister said the Padma Bridge project was taken for development of the country’s southern part, which was neglected for a long time. The region is also very vulnerable to climate change.

At the very beginning of the initiation of the project, she said the World Bank had showed keen interest in financing the project and promised to give huge fund for construction of the bridge.

Sheikh Hasina said Dr Yunus persuaded the World Bank to withdraw from the project and raise the allegation of corruption against her and her family members.

“They made their frantic search to establish their allegation but failed to establish anything,” she said adding, “I had taken the matter as a challenge as I had mental strength to take the decision of constructing the bridge with our own resources.”

In this regard the prime minister said she is doing politics for welfare of the people, not for gaining anything on her own. So, she’s not greedy for plundering public money, she said.

However, the prime minister didn’t say anything about the demand of the questioner for taking illegal actions against siphoning millions of Taka off Grameen Bank to abroad.

She said the government has exempted the Grameen Bank from paying tax on its income in good faith that the bank would work for real welfare of the downtrodden. But other enterprises of the company were not exempted from tax. So, NBR may take actions against the tax evasion,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said her government in 1997 gave license of Grameen Phone to Dr Yunus as he promised that the profit of the telephone operator would go for welfare of the members of the Grameen Bank.

“But, Dr Yunus cheated with the government and people by establishing the Grameen Phone as his personal company. Now he sold out most of the company’s share to foreign partners keeping only 30 percent share in his name,” she said.

Replying to a question from treasury member Kamal Ahmed Majumder, the prime minister said the government had undertaken “Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar” project to protect the extreme poor from micro credit lenders.

In this regard, the prime minister blasted Dr Yunus for charging about 40 percent interest from the debtors saying the interest rate of the bank was so exorbitant that the poor people could not afford it.

The prime minister refuted the allegation that the government has removed Dr Yunus from the positing of the managing director of the Grameen Bank. As he was legally disqualified for the post of MD, the government proposed him to be ‘Advisor Emeritus’.

But he denied to accept the proposal and opted to file case against the government and central bank, she said adding that “but he lost the battle as law was not in his favour.”

The prime minister said Hillary Clinton phoned her not to remove Dr Yunus from the post of managing director of the Grameen Bank. “Though his all anger fell on me, but I had nothing to do in that situation,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said now the Grameen Bank is functioning smoothly as the government has taken all steps in this regard. Now the interest rate of the bank came down to 27 percent and shareholders can take loan according to their wishes.

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