Hands off Grameen Bank

Sherman says independence of microlender must continue

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From left, Jose Fernandez, US assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs; Dan Mozena, US ambassador to Bangladesh; Kelly McCarthy, press and information officer at the US embassy; Wendy Sherman, US under secretary for political affairs; and Shahidul Haque, foreign secretary of Bangladesh, attend a joint press briefing at State Guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka yesterday.

Two Bangladeshi institutions — Grameen Bank and BRAC — serve as global models in the fight against poverty and suffering, Wendy R Sherman, US under secretary for political affairs , said yesterday.
Both the organisations began as domestic efforts to empower the poor and assist the needy and both are now in international operations, working in some of the world’s most destitute areas, she said.
“We want to see Grameen’s independence and effectiveness continue so the rights and interests of its women shareholders can be safeguarded.”
Sherman spoke at a discussion — A partnership without boundaries: US-Bangladesh relations — organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Ruposhi Bangla hotel in Dhaka.
“We were so pleased to see last month Bangladesh’s native son honoured in the Capitol rotunda by our political leaders in both parties. Professor Muhammad Yunus became the first Muslim of any nationality to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award our Congress can bestow,” she said.
About the youth, she said the US efforts to engage the young Bangladeshis have taken on a new momentum.
With 80 percent of Bangladesh’s population under the age of 40, it is vital to energise and encourage entrepreneurship, activism, and responsibility in this segment that represents Bangladesh’s future, she said.
Stressing the need for reforms for both garment workers and the industry, she said these are also critical to restoring Bangladesh’s image in the eyes of the international community.
The success of the Bangladesh story has implications not just for the Bangladeshis, but for the entire global community, she said.
“Millions around the globe see Bangladesh as a powerful model for democratic and economic development and seek to replicate your success.”
In the past two decades, life expectancy in Bangladesh increased by ten years, infant mortality declined by nearly two-thirds, female literacy doubled, and economic growth averaged over 5 percent a year, Sherman said.
Bangladesh has become the world’s second largest exporter of garments, achieved self-sufficiency in rice production, and is on track to become self-sufficient in food production altogether by the end of the decade.
At the same time, the Bangladeshis have crafted a vibrant democracy, she said.
On the US cooperation in the private sector, the diplomat said trade has crossed $6 billion a year.
More and more US companies are looking to put down roots, meaning more jobs for the Bangladeshis, she added.
“It’s no wonder Goldman Sachs called Bangladesh one of the best emerging economies for trade and investment.”
On the US-Bangladesh partnership, she said, “We expect our partnership to deepen even further as we continue to ramp up American engagement in the Asia-Pacific.”
“We want to see an Indo-Pacific economic corridor to connect the dynamic countries of South Asia to the major markets of Southeast Asia and beyond.”
To speed up the flow of goods, services and people throughout the region, she said, “We’ll need to break trade barriers between countries, and build up the infrastructure: roads, bridges, electrical transmission grids, railways, sea ports and pipelines.”
“If we can accomplish this, Central, South and Southeast Asia can once again become a bustling hub for global commerce.”
The US official said Bangladesh is a leading voice within Saarc and other regional forums in calling for greater connectivity.
And as Bangladesh engages more with its neighbours on security, trade and investment, development and other issues, the region is becoming more integrated and stable, she added.

Source: The Daily Star

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