The former military dictator has an interesting take on his role in the establishment of Grameen Bank. He writes in today’s Daily Star:
Grameen Bank Ordinance was promulgated by me to establish Grameen Bank on September 4, 1983 when I had had barely completed my first year in office. One should understand how busy I was during those days.
My government allocated resources for Grameen Bank for its expansion program to cover the entire country at very generous terms, mostly, if I remember correctly, with aid funds from Sweden, Norway and Canada.
I did this deliberately so that Grameen Bank could provide loans to the poor at a rate that was affordable to the poor at 9-10%. I was assured by Grameen Bank that interest rate would be lowered to the desired level, when the expansion program ended in 1992. But over the years the interest rate went up from 13% in 1983 to 20% after I left office
Ershad is basically saying he was far seeing enough to realise what a good thing Grameen was and would be and thus he facilitated the way for Grameen through his unique “Grameen ordnance.” He also deftly manages to remove himself from the widely criticised interest rates charged by Grameen!
Another take on this history would be that Grameen did not want to register as a bank or a cooperative. Yunus was able to do his usual politicking to milk the situation. Ershad, as a new military dictator, was keen on promoting a more humane image of his regime. And Yunus needed Ershad’s help to set his enterprise up as a parastatal agency overseen by a board made up of himself, state officials and a larger group of Bank clients. Yunus and Ershad needed to scratch each other’s backs and they did.