Grameen’s business empire
Property rights in peril in Bangladesh
Jan 28th 2012 | from the print edition
Some day, all this will belong to the state
HE IS probably Bangladesh's most celebrated citizen. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel peace prize, founded Grameen Bank in 1983 to provide tiny loans to poor rural women. Grameen became a global model for microfinance. It also spawned 48 other firms in sectors that stretch from textiles to mobile phones. Yet the Bangladeshi government seems determined to take Mr Yunus down a peg.
In May 2011 the government pushed him out of his job as boss of Grameen Bank, saying that he was past the retirement age for someone running a government bank. (Grameen Bank mostly belongs to its borrowers but the state owns a slice.) Mr Yunus says this is just a pretext for a power grab. The government now wants to assert more control over other firms in the Grameen network, which includes assets worth an estimated $1.6 billion.
In this section
* Fleecing the flock
* Faster, faster, faster
* Research in commotion
* Dotcom bust
* Psst, wanna buy a law firm?
* »Grabbing Grameen
* The power of tribes
* Technology industry
This is controversial, to put it mildly, not least because some Grameen firms have big foreign partners. Grameenphone, Bangladesh's largest telecoms provider, was created with Norway's Telenor and generates sales of nearly $1 billion a year. Grameen Danone Foods, a yogurt-maker, and Grameen-Veolia, a water company, are joint ventures with French giants. BASF Grameen, which makes mosquito nets, and Grameen Intel, which creates software for poor farmers, also have foreign backers.
The government says that Grameen Bank owns or part-owns all these...