Sunday, 7 July 2013

The bank that empowers poor women is under threat

According to this report, the Bangladesh government last week took the decision to seize majority control of the Grameen Bank. According to the Indian Express, the United States government has publicly expressed disquiet over the moves, but the UK, a fellow-member of the Commonwealth, has not made any public protest. Even more surprising, I can find no record of a parliamentary question on the subject to International Development Minister Justine Greening.

I support the Jubilee campaign, but even more effective than forgiving third-world government debt is incenting people to improve their circumstances by their own efforts. Grameen was doubly effective in that it also empowered women in a Muslim nation. (The bank lends mainly to women. This was as much a pragmatic as a liberal decision; if I recall correctly, founder Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus learned early on that women were much more reliable in their repayments than men.) It would be a major setback for Bangladesh if Grameen were to be neutered - or worse, looted by corrupt ministers and government officials.

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