"Fullest consideration" to Yunus for WB Prez post: US

Dhaka: The US will give "fullest consideration" to the candidature of Nobel Laureate economist Muhammad Yunus for the World Bank presidency if he wants to head the multilateral agency, American Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena said here on Tuesday.

"If he agrees (to be a candidate for the World Bank presidency), he will be given fullest consideration," US Ambassador Dan Mozena told newsmen on the sidelines of a function in northwestern Rajshahi.

The envoy, however, did not elaborate further.

He was responding to a query on the surprise move by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggesting his candidature for the position last week.

On February 22, Hasina proposed Yunus’s name for the World Bank chief's post during a meeting with a EU parliamentary delegation months after his resignation from the Grameen Bank after a protracted dispute with her government.

Since the setting up of World Bank after the end of the Second World War, Americans have held the top job at World Bank, while the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been from Europe.

Representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), who met on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Mexico City early this week, were of the opinion that the top World Bank job should be open to all countries.

"Candidates should be based on merit and not on nationality," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega had said.

The BRICS nations may also field their candidate for the post to make a larger point that the merit and not nationality should be the criterion for selection. Countries have to submit names for the job by March 23.

"The Prime Minister has requested the European Union to use its good office for Dr Yunus for the presidency of the World Bank" a senior aide to the Premier had told PTI when a visiting EU delegation, led by EU Parliament member Jean Lambert, called on the Prime Minister at her office.

Another "source" familiar with the meeting said Hasina noted that Yunus is well-respected across the world for his outstanding contribution towards alleviating poverty through micro-credit activities and his experience would be a valuable asset for the World Bank.

Yunus, whose experiment of poor men’s banking earned Bangladesh the reputation of of being the home to micro credit. He also won the the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

He was not available for comments on the issue for the past one week.

The 70-year old had resigned last year from Grammeen Bank after he lost in the apex court against a Bangladesh Bank decision to remove him from the position.

Hasina’s proposition instantly sparked wide speculations if it was an effort to reverse her stance on Yunus, particularly to woo the US administration which stood by Yunus at the time of his dispute with the government.

"I do not think Yunus is looking for the position," Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University said. "I don’t think this (proposal) is practical or relevant. I also don’t think this will be looked positively," he added.

Bangladesh Bank had removed Yunus after finding that his appointment as the Grameen Bank’s executive chief was faulty because the central bank’s mandatory approval was not obtained at that time.

Analysts, however, said the central bank decision was the outcome of the government reservation against him as Yunus’s troubles stem from 2007 when he announced formation of a political party.