HOLT: Bangladesh Government Must Halt Attacks on Grameen Bank

(Washington, DC) Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today issued the following statement on the latest efforts by the government of Bangladesh to control or dismantle the world-famous Grameen Bank, whose microcredit programs have lifted millions out of poverty around the world:

“It is past time for the government of Bangladesh to cease its efforts to destroy one of the true economic marvels of our age: Grameen Bank.  I call upon Secretary of State Kerry to make it clear to officials in Dhaka that America supports Grameen Bank and its work for the poor in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world,” said Holt. “If the government of Bangladesh persists in its attacks on the bank and Professor Yunus, our government should reevaluate the wisdom of our current push to deepen political and security ties to the current government.”


This week, Nobel laureate and Congressional Gold Medal winner Professor Muhammad Yunus published an op-ed in the Dhaka Tribune condemning proposals for a government takeover or outright break up of Grameen Bank, which Yunus founded over 30 years ago to help poor women in Bangladesh and elsewhere create their own small businesses and rise out of poverty by providing small loans at generous terms.

Earlier this year, the Congress awarded America’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, to Yunus for his creation of microcredit and his life-long commitment to fighting poverty. Holt was the sponsor of the resolution authorizing the medal.

“Bangladesh needs more institutions like Grameen, and more pioneers like Muhammad Yunus. It’s past time for the government of Bangladesh to recognize those facts and work with Professor Yunus, not against him.”

Source: holt.house.gov

Reception accorded to Yunus

Business31

Source: The Daily Star
Published on: 10th July, 2013

Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus was accorded a reception for his life-long efforts aimed at eradicating poverty from the world and making Bangladesh proud in the process.

The family of AYBI Siddiqi, a former government secretary and inspector general of police, hosted the accord to Grameen Bank founder for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, US Congressional Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom, at Spectra Convention Centre in Dhaka on Saturday.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental organisation, was also given a memento.
Speaking at the event, Sir Abed said: “Prof Yunus has taken the microcredit to the world stage as a tool to eradicate poverty. Many countries are using it to eliminate poverty. We are a proud citizen of Bangladesh because of Yunus.”
Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said through microcredit Prof Yunus empowered the people who were overlooked by the market economy.

Akbar Ali Khan, a former caretaker government adviser, said the board delegated power to the management of the microcredit organisation in many areas such as loan approval and promotion.

As a result, Grameen Bank and Prof Yunus won the Nobel Prize, said Khan, also a former chairman of Grameen Bank.
Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Group and winner of Oslo Business for Peace Award, said: “Prof Yunus is such a great man who has not stopped despite winning the Noble Prize. He has continued to work for the country and the world.”
Prof Lutfe Siddiqi, one of the managing directors of United Bank of Switzerland and son of AYBI Siddiqi, and Rehana Siddiqi, wife of AYBI Siddiqi, were also present.

Uniqlo brings fashion back to the source in Bangladesh

By Nandita Bose and Ruma Paul
Published on: Thu Jul 4, 2013
Source: Reuters

uniqlo

(Reuters) - On a bustling Dhaka street full of buyers looking for deals on export rejects and designer fakes, a flight of stairs leads up to an anomaly in a country known for producing international clothing brands - a global high street fashion store.

Uniqlo, owned by Japan's Fast Retailing Co (9983.T), is opening two stores in Bangladesh, a favorite low-cost sourcing hub for many international retailers but a country where, until now, they have not sold their clothes.

Inside the brightly lit confines of the larger of Uniqlo's two Dhaka stores, staff frantically rushed among stacks of clothing manufactured exclusively for the local market to add the final touches before a grand opening on Friday.

The Japanese retailer, in a tie-up with Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, has dared to venture into a $70 billion retail market untouched by global chains, where about 30 million people make up the middle-income bracket.

In April, more than 1,100 garment workers died in the collapse of a eight-story building in Bangladesh, putting pressure on international fashion brands to improve worker safety and livelihoods.

MIDDLE CLASS FOCUS

At 1,000 sq ft (90 sq meters), the Dhaka store is a far cry from Uniqlo's large-format shops elsewhere and stocks mostly menswear - women in Bangladesh, a largely Muslim nation, still prefer to wear traditional clothes.

A group of college students, who looked curiously at the store from across the street, had never heard of the brand.

"The store looks good from the outside. I can shop here for Eid, but not always," said Jamshed Robin, a 25-year-old political science student, looking at the price catalogue.

Eid al-Fitr is a key religious holiday and marks a major shopping period for Muslims.

A typical slim fit pair of jeans here costs 990 taka ($12.73) and a short-sleeve shirt costs 890 taka ($11.44), before a 5 percent local tax. That means they are aimed at the small but growing middle class, rather than the masses who make up the ranks of garment factory workers and who earn a minimum monthly wage of $38.

Uniqlo, on its website, says its T-shirts cost 20-30 percent more than those sold in the local market, and says it is banking that customers will pay a little more for the higher quality.

"We're not selling Uniqlo products, we're going to be selling Grameen Uniqlo which is more geared to the local market, for between about 200 and 1,000 yen ($2-$10)," said Naoto Miyazawa, a Fast Retailing spokesman in Tokyo.

SAFETY PACT

Fast Retailing has so far not joined a global safety pact for factories in Bangladesh drawn up after April's disaster at the Rana Plaza complex, in an industrial suburb north of Dhaka, preferring instead to ramp up its own inspections.

Miyazawa said the company had not yet decided whether to sign up to the pact because its details were still unclear.

Uniqlo is investing $4.6 million in Bangladesh. The company describes the initiative with micro-lender Grameen as a "social business venture" on its website and plans to reinvest the profits to alleviate poverty in rural areas.

"We want to deliver innovative designs and fashion to the middle class customers here and have plans to open more stores across several cities that will create more jobs," said Yukihiro Nitta, chief executive officer of the joint venture.

Uniqlo will hold 99 percent of Grameen Uniqlo Ltd and Grameen Healthcare Trust will hold the rest.

At its second store, in a residential middle-class suburb, the power goes out twice before its restored with a generator.

Outside 28-year-old sales executive Omar Iqbal is eager to check out the glistening store.

"It will be nice to wear a global brand to work," he said. "Will their clothes have the Uniqlo logo on them like Adidas does?" ($1 = 77.7700 Bangladesh takas)

(Additional reporting by Sophie Knight in Tokyo; Writing by Nandita Bose)

Graduates celebrate success with stars Lily Cole and Katherine Grainger

03 July 2013

Hundreds of Glasgow Caledonian University students celebrated their success today as the University’s first summer graduation ceremony took place at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC).

coleMore than 1000 students from the University’s School of Health and Life Sciences and the School of Engineering and Built Environment were joined by honorary graduates including Olympic gold medal winning rower Katherine Grainger, games designer Richard Lemarchand and international fashion model, actress and social entrepreneur Lily Cole.

GCU Chancellor Professor Muhammad Yunus welcomed graduands and their families to the SECC.

He said: “It is my great privilege to welcome you to this ceremony. Graduation is one of the most memorable occasions in everybody’s lives. I must remind you all that you are the most powerful generation in human history. You have the most amazing technology at your command and the ability to build a better world. You are superman and superwoman. You can change it all. Congratulations.”

The University also recognised Olympic athlete Katherine Grainger and model, actress and social entrepreneur Lily Cole with honorary doctorates.

GCU University Secretary Jan Hulme said Katherine was “constantly redefining world class” as she paid tribute to the athlete’s achievement in winning Team GB Olympic Gold, three Olympic Silver medals, and six-time World Championship titles.

Katherine was presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University, in recognition of her outstanding contribution in the field of sport and to honour her public service and work with charity.

Katherine said: “It’s a massive honour to get this degree. I won’t give too much advice as you all have to find your own ways in life. But I will say one thing: although you may have a good idea where your life is going you should still always be open to opportunities when they come. I didn’t think I’d be rowing and I didn’t have the idea that I’d be an Olympian and an Olympic champion. The exciting thing is that you are all at the start of your journey. It’s all there waiting for you. Good luck.”

Lily Cole, international fashion model, actress and social entrepreneur, was recognised with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters for her outstanding contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes.

Professor Karen Stanton, Vice-Principal and Pro Vice-Chancellor for International and External Relations, said that through Lily’s work with charity and social business she had challenged people to “deal in the currency of kindness” and that Lily was one of the “most ambitious young social entrepreneurs on the world stage today.”

Lily, whose mother the artist Patience Owen attended the Glasgow ceremony, said: “It is an honour and a pleasure to be with you all today – as this is really about all the students who are graduating today. To achieve is important but I hope it never seems lofty. I think the most important things in life are really simple and it is about our attitude to life.

“For me, achievement has always come as something of a surprise when my first thought has been to follow my heart. The jumps between fashion, film and business were scary and continue to be scary but every time I’ve been rewarded. You’re at the most amazing moment right now when you can choose what it is you want to do. So I would say follow your heart, if you need to pivot in five years, pivot in five years. I wish you all the best of luck and congratulations.”

During Wednesday’s afternoon ceremony, Professor Douglas Greenhalgh, Executive Dean and Pro-vice Chancellor of the School of Engineering and Built Environment, presented games designer Richard Lemarchand with Degree of Doctor of Technology in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the fields of innovation and development.

Richard said: “When there was no such thing as a University course in games design I used to tell my friends that I’d become a doctor of video game studies. They all scoffed but thanks to you all here today I think I have won some points. I hope that all your adventures are as fun and as satisfying as mine.”

It was the first time the SECC venue has hosted a GCU graduation ceremony and staff and students watched a live screening of the proceedings in the Saltire Centre and the Deeprose Lecture Theatre, and kept up-to-date with events through our official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Actress Phyllida Law, Professor Anne Glover and businessman Brian Duffy are among the remaining leading citizens to be honoured in ceremonies later.

Source: Glasgow Caledonian University

More success stories will take social business to next level

Md Fazlur Rahman

bs0215

Social business, which is already off to a good start, now needs some success stories to take off in a big way, experts said.

Martin Loeffler, chief executive officer (CEO) of Grameen Caldas, a social business consulting firm and incubation centre in Colombia, said the fledgling concept, which is the brainchild of Prof Muhammad Yunus, has already gained much momentum.
“The idea has already got so much attention — you just need to look at the number of people that took part in the Social Business Day event. Among them were a lot of corporations — they already believe in it.”

For the final jump to becoming a mainstream and well-established programme, he said the advocates would now have to present more concrete and successful examples.

Loeffler, also the director of California Institute for Social Business, however, does not think that social business would completely eliminate the traditional forms of business.
“We are not against anything. We are not saying that normal businesses are bad — they create a lot of social values by generating employment and giving services to consumers.”

The expert said many corporations could set up a social business arm to solve the social problems they are creating.

“Every company or institution has its footprint in terms of carbon, garbage, water usage and waste. Those problems can be taken out in a self-sustainable manner by creating social businesses around the for-profit businesses.”

Loeffler’s comments came on the sidelines of the fourth Social Business Day, which took place in Dhaka on Friday, attracting about 1,000 participants from around the world.

According to Prof Muhammad Yunus, social business is a cause-driven business where the investors or owners can gradually recoup the money invested but cannot take any dividend beyond that point.

The purpose of the investment is purely to achieve one or more social objectives through the operation of the company; no personal gain is desired by the investors.
Saskia Bruysten, co-founder and CEO of Yunus Social Business in Germany, said the idea is going places.

“Big development agencies are slowly opening their doors to social business, although they had initially said that it did not fit in their boxes. Governments, too, are getting engaged.”
She cited the invitation from the government of Sweden to solve the country’s nagging unemployment problem.

“Social business is such a fundamental concept — it is not just for international development or poor countries. It is something that addresses any social ills.”

Bruysten, who helped the EU Commission’s expert group on social business and has assisted Prof Yunus on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s MDG Advocacy Group, said they are introducing crowd funding, a concept which allows people with even $25 dollars to invest to set up a business.

The German said their goal is to reach a target when none would ask what social business is, and is very optimistic about achieving it. “The African Development Bank has invited the Yunus Social Business to come to Africa. That is a whole new continent we have not tapped.”

Meanwhile, Larry Reed, director of Microcredit Summit Campaign, a US-based organisation that promotes microfinance, said: “If I were a Bangladeshi, I would have been very proud to know that something that has been created in my country is now taking hold worldwide.”

Social business, he says, taps the desire that many people have to invest in the world’s problems and see it become a better place to live. “It provides a vehicle for people to do something.”

He said the West, which is grappling with its own problems, is also looking towards the concept conceived by Prof Yunus. “It is not just for developing countries — there are also poor people in the West.”

About keeping social businesses ethical, the anti-poverty campaigner called for some set rules and guidelines and transparency reporting system for the purpose of evaluation.
“People would then be able to back up their claims that they are doing something for the society with numbers.”

He also touched upon the current situation at the microcredit industry, where the total number of clients has gone down globally for the first time since 1997.

“The drop is largely because of the crisis in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. There is also slow growth in Bangladesh and some other countries.”

He said the number of clients is growing tremendously in Sub-Saharan Africa, and tipped the continent to be “the next big destination” for microcredit. “In fact, the highest growth in clients last year took place there,” he added.

About the Grameen Bank issue, Reed said: “It is a tragedy to see that the government is trying to step in and take over something that has been very successful. It is a wrong approach.”
“We have seen worldwide that when governments tried to run microfinance programmes they failed. It is because people do not pay the money back and the money does not go to the poor.”

“I think it is very important to recognise that the owners of Grameen Bank are the women who invested their money. No government should try to take away what the poor people have worked so hard to gain for themselves — that is just not an appropriate thing for a government to do.”

Source: The Daily Star
Published on: 30th June, 2013