Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed last week that the Grameen Bank's former chief and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus be made the next president of the World Bank. But does Yunus really stand a chance?
World Bank President Robert Zoellick is stepping down at the end of his five-year term on June 30. There has been speculation that the next World Bank head would be from a developing country. Last week, the Bangladeshi prime minister told visiting EU parliamentarians that she wanted Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist and founder of the Grameen Bank, to become the new leader of the World Bank. The proposal came as a surprise, as Hasina has been at loggerheads with Yunus in the past. US officials have also recently expressed their preference for Yunus as president of the World Bank. But despite that, Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka tells Deutsche Welle that Yunus' chances are very dim.
Deutsche Welle: So far, the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been from the West. Do you think Professor Muhammad Yunus stands a chance of becoming the World Bank president?
Imtiaz Ahmed: I don't think that at this stage he stands a great chance. In Bangladesh, there is a lot of discussion about it. There is also a lot of criticism on the government for its treatment of Yunus, and this will not go away by Sheikh Hasina's proposal that Yunus be made the World Bank president. Moreover, historically, the World Bank president has always been from the United States and the IMF chief from Europe. This time too we heard that the IMF chief position would go to China, but that did not happen.
The developing countries have been demanding for a long time a bigger role in global economic affairs. Do you think that by making an internationally renowned economist like Yunus head, that Western nations can fulfil this demand?
I don't think that at this time the United States or other stakeholders, particularly the ones that are closely associated with the World Bank, would support Yunus. Also, the economic meltdown and the efforts that are required to rebuild the global economy suggest that the presidency of the World Bank would go to someone from the US. The other thing is Yunus has been critical of the World Bank and believes the World Bank programs are not successful in alleviating poverty.
You mean to say that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested Muhammad Yunus' name because of domestic political pressure?
It contradicts her previous position. Earlier, she said there were problems with Grameen Bank's functioning. She leveled allegations against the Bank and Yunus. So suddenly this statement that she wanted Muhammad Yunus to be the World Bank president does not match her previous statements.
Interview: Sanjiv Burman
Editor: Shamil Shams