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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

During the Eid Break, Only in Bangladesh

Stuff that happened

But bailout did not happen. What did happen is what experts had been predicting for the last 20 years, but it happened in the space of a couple of weeks. Now Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup own more than 30% of the bank deposits. This will presumably kill off more banks as there was an actual 'ban' since 1995 that prevented giants like Citigroup from making acquisitions. Now it seems the 'ban' has disappeared.

Citigroup recently bought out Wachovia. As you may realize, Wachovia opened a branch in Dhaka, Bangladesh just a couple months back. Now Citibank NA owns it. I guess Mamun Rashid can rightly strutt in and out of Wachovia now. Its his bounty after all.

Daat-majun did happen (see picture). Our favoriate politician wannabe/shud khor (I am not that fluent in Bangla, but does it translate to interest pimp? If it does Zindegi! Zindegi!)/banker to the poor, was at the Clinton Global Initiative. Yes I was there. But Yunus reiterated in front of a dreamy democrat crowd that US banks should lend more to the poor, considering that we are in this mess, because banks lent to the poor in the first place.

Our professor mentioned that Grameenbank has a 98% recovery rate only in Bangladesh. CEO's of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and BoA listened attentively and the Wall Street recovered realizing the wisdom in Yunus's words. Poverty was eliminated precisely 2 minutes later. Yunus's next book is rumored to be called "Mr. 98 Percent: using NGO tactics for loan recovery". Fazle Abed is co-authoring the book.

Back to Bangladesh from your daydream. Banks now. Only in Bangladesh, banks don't seem to die or merge. Remember Al Baraka, Oriental and ICB Islamic Bank? It has 9 lives even though it should be dead long time ago. But just recently an organization that specializes in buying sick/under-par/"crap" banks decided to buy it out of the clutches of Bangladesh Bank. The ICB group, which bought the bank, is also known to operate a large string of third-world, hand-me-down banks across Africa and Eastern Europe. Although BASEL II (which I know nothing about other than it requires banks pin down a huge amount of money) might actually kill ICB fruition. Did I also mention ICB is an 'Islamic' bank? Because only in Bangladesh if your normal operations don't succeed, labelling it Islamic may do the trick.

Secondly for the first time ever, BTRC is charging for spectrum. This was a shock to our telecom sector as 'only in Bangladesh' did these companies get huge amounts for free. But Grameenphone, Banglalink and AKtel are the only ones that got a piece.

Anders Jensen just confirmed what we have been suspecting all along as the reason for his resignation. His family. Not VoIP, tumbling of profits, failure of the IPO or not adding a single customer in August. Rumors are that Anders Jensen is going to be replaced by a Bangladeshi sock puppet to satisfy Yunus. Expect more conversations on a per-minute basis (not with VoIP obviously) with Arse Norbor.

Also Happy Eid from everyone.


Anonymous said...

nice one mate.

Ahmed Ali said...

Sheikh Hasina's Bangla linguistics spikes when it comes to talking about Yunus. I am still wondering if shud khor directly translates to 'interest pimp' or something worse.

Tanvir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanvir said...

really didn't understand your comparison between local banks with JPmorgan & citigroup. Grameenbank has separate working procedure, however it will also go bankrupt if most of the customers deny to pay the money for a long period of time which will actually freeze grameenbank's money like the lehman brothers. Now 98% recovery does not necessarily mean that most of the money taken out by force, if this bank is so unfriendly most of the people would stop taking money from there. The customers of grameenbank are there by their own choice and if there had been such bad reputation people would find alternative source for funding by now. And many of the banks and financial institutions would see microcredit as very lucrative sector. Maybe since there are very strong competitors like grameenbank and brac, the banks you see in cities and towns do not operate in village under microcredit term.

Also i see no problem in ICB, if the Islamic name sells in Bangladesh, then it is problem with the people of Bangladesh too. You shouldn't only blame the corporates. Plus it is a good news that Oriental bank has regained its life, if it was bankrupt, think how many people would lose their savings. It also means that banking sector here is very lucrative for the time being, so you are seeing so many banks operating with very good profit margin here.

Ahmed Ali said...

I was just mentioning JPMorgan, BoA and Citi because they are now taking the opportunity to really strengthen their position in the US.

ICD should have been merged with something as crappy as itself (maybe First Security Bank?), then when they fail merge again to another crappier bank. Until the people learn not to bank with something that changed names so many times.

ICB should have never existed. It only makes it capable of failing again. Its not that easy to resurrect a bank. It should have been merged.

Autocrat at Breakfast Table said...

Dear Ahmed,

I came across your blog today and I don't know if its OK to 'raise the dead' that was in R.I.P for the last year. Translating Bangla 'shud khor' to English may not be 100% fitting. But the word 'khor' relates to eating or consuming. Interest 'gobbler' or 'guzzler' could be an alternative.

Having worked for Grameen family for about a decade, I would think ownership transfer of Grameen Phone (GP) to Grameen Bank (GB) would not be less than a catastrophe. Look at most of the Grameen subsidiaries how they are faring & who are their CEOs. They are mostly retired micro-credit stalwarts who jumped into the Dr. Yunus bandwagon in the late 70s and 80s when Grameen didn't take off. These old-timers and some bureaucrats who helped Yunus materialize his dream (he is still dreaming) are being more than adequately rewarded for their loyalty. Consider a micro-credit expert as CEO of Joint Venture macro-enterprise like GP. It's going to be another 'bad dream' for Grameen family.

Yunus is a direct beneficiary of Gen Ershad's autocratic regime as the GB Ordinance was passed with Ershad's direct intervention. Ershad is gone but Yunus remains the brain-father and MD of Grameen Bank for more than 25 years. Who is the autocrat here?

In a seminar in about 2004 at GB building itself with Dr. Yunus in the chair, Dr. Wahiduddin Mahmud (the then President of Bangladesh Economics Association) said, 'micro-credit is well-established world wide now, micro credit doesn't need Prof. Yunus anymore'. Yes, I was there and Prof Yunus didn't like it a bit. That was before he got the noble for peace in2006.

So what are his dreams with Grameen now? Removing poverty within 2 minutes naive ideas? Is his self-actualization not yet over after the noble? What's next, President of Bangladesh? What’s he scared off? Since he has not developed adequate leadership of semi-equal capability as himself, is he afraid the noble will be taken back as his empire crumbles without the King for ever? When will the autocrat retire with dignity and honour?