Letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh - Reject Harmful Changes To Grameen Bank

Today, U.S. Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) released a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to reject the recent recommendations of the Grameen Bank Commission that would fundamentally alter the Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank. The letter, which was sent to the Prime Minister last week, was signed by 32 Members of Congress.

"We believe the implementation of any of these recommendations would be disastrous," the Senators and Representatives wrote. "Such action would undermine the women borrowers and shareholders who have made the Bank such a success and would compromise the independence that has protected Grameen Bank from political turmoil over the last three decades."

If implemented, these recommendations would disenfranchise nearly 5 million borrower-shareholders in Grameen Bank -- 97 percent of whom are women -- and remove the borrowers who sit on the Bank's Board of Directors, replacing them with government officials. Bangladeshi officials are also considering proposals that would give the government the a formal majority stake in Grameen Bank, or would break the Bank apart into separate entities with no legal relationship between them.

Over the last three decades, Grameen Bank has served over 8.4 million borrowers. The Bank is renowned for its economic model centered on equality and inclusion and is recognized as a model institution for modern development.

Joining Senators Boxer and Enzi and Representatives DeLauro and Paulsen on the letter were Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), and Representatives Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D- MN), Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D- NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The full text of the letter follows:

The Honorable Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister
Bangladesh

Dear Prime Minister Hasina:

As Members of the United States Congress, we write to urge you to reject the recent recommendations of the Grameen Bank Commission that would jeopardize the role Grameen Bank has played in the critical fight to end poverty in Bangladesh.

Grameen Bank has delivered a profound and lasting benefit to the people of Bangladesh. It has allowed millions to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and destitution, creating an independent, borrower-run company that is a model for non-governmental organizations across the globe. Its borrowers--97 percent of whom are women--have demonstrated the power of an economic model centered on equality and inclusion.

Both Bangladesh and the international community have a compelling interest in the safety and soundness of Grameen Bank. However, we are profoundly troubled by recent proposals that would fundamentally alter the future of this Nobel Prize-winning institution.

The Grameen Bank Commission, which was created in May 2012 to offer guidance on the future of Grameen Bank, recently provided the Bangladeshi government with several sets of recommendations. One set would disenfranchise nearly 5 million borrower-shareholders in Grameen Bank and dismiss the borrowers who sit on the Bank's Board of Directors, replacing them with government officials. A second equally devastating set would give the government a formal majority stake in Grameen Bank, or would break the Bank apart into separate entities with no legal relationship between them.

We believe the implementation of any of these recommendations would be disastrous. Such action would undermine the women borrowers and shareholders who have made the Bank such a success and would compromise the independence that has protected Grameen Bank from political turmoil over the last three decades.

You have committed to combating poverty and expressed a desire to keep Grameen Bank healthy and stable for generations to come. We share those goals, and as such, we urge you to reject the recommendations of the Grameen Bank Commission and any other effort that would injure this critical institution and the Bangladeshi people.