The Nine Ladies Snap Back

March 07, 2013

The nine client-members on the board of the Grameen Bank, all women, have made a sassy public response to the interim report of the commission investigating the Grameen Bank. (Hat tip to the Grameen Foundation.)I have to admire the pointed prose:

The Commission even records in their report that we do not participate in board discussions. They complain that even the learned representatives of the Governments did not participate in the discussions either. What a great board! None of the members participate in the discussion, but the bank still wins the Nobel Peace Prize! A non- speaking board has created the most admired bank in the world! Why does the Commission underestimate us? Could it be because we are poor and because we are women!
I was a bit disappointed that they prefer to play the gender card, pointing out that the commission is all male, to addressing the substance of the interim report. Truly the two sides are talking past each other.But Asif Dowla's recent comment helped me appreciate one thing the board members wrote:
Most of us never went to school, but that did not mean that we did not know how to run our business and run Grameen Bank. We managed the bank better than anyone else in the banking world. We did not let our bank become a corruption-ridden bank, like the government banks are.
Maybe they are not finance wizards, but they are sterling board members by historical Bangladeshi standards in one sense, as Asif explained:
One has to compare Grameen’s governance with governance in state owned and private banks in Bangladesh. The state owned banks board membership are handed out to people not because they are “experts in law or finance”, but because they are supporters of ruling political party and the membership is a form of patronage and payoff. Until recently, the board members of private banks were full of people who were defaulting on loans from state owned banks! In many cases, the directors of private banks were taking loans from their own banks!


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