Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday denied that he had quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as saying that Bangladesh's achievements were not highlighted on the world stage because of Prof Muhammad Yunus.
However, The Daily Star has the recorded proof that the finance minister on Thursday told reporters: "Prof Amartya said that so many good things are happening in this country but they are not projected anywhere in the world only because of Prof Yunus."
Muhith told reporters at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka yesterday, “Amartya Sen did not make any such comment about Prof Yunus. It was my comment."
When asked whether he made any comment involving the highly acclaimed Indian economist and the Grameen Bank founder, the minister said: "I did not make such comments."
After inaugurating the "International Inter-Ministerial Conference on Evidence for Action: South-South Collaboration" yesterday, Muhith said: "I had told [reporters] that Amartya said the country is doing so well but it is not being highlighted by the press. He is sad about this."
"I am very sorry that Amartya has been linked with it. How can Amartya speak against Yunus? Is it possible?"
Later, a statement, sent to The Daily Star by his senior information officer Md Shahedur Rahman, said: "In his comments on November 8, the minister said Prof Yunus's negative stance and campaign is an obstacle to wooing foreign direct investment into Bangladesh, and there is no complete truth in his campaign."
The statement said Prof Yunus has been relentlessly expressing his concerns about the future of Grameen Bank for the last two years and saying that the government wants to destroy the bank.
"The campaign is out of touch with reality and harmful for the country. It is the personal opinion of the finance minister and he has not discussed with anybody on the issue," said the statement.
However, Muhith at the hotel yesterday said, "Yunus is a respected person and my friend."
The statement sent to The Daily Star said Amartya had not made any comment about Prof Yunus, and his comments were focused on speedy development of Bangladesh.
"Some have linked the two things together intentionally or unintentionally and published distorted and baseless news about it. The whole statement has been filmed and was properly aired in electronic media and published in many newspapers."
"Some have unnecessarily added the name of Prof Yunus with the comments about Prof Amartya," claimed the statement.
The statement also said the minister was extremely saddened for the unnecessary inclusion of the name of Prof Yunus in the statement of Amartya admiring Bangladesh's economy.
"He [the minister] apologises to Amartya Sen for the distorted news published in the Bangladeshi media. The finance minister thinks Amartya Sen has the highest regards for Bangladesh and has always projected Bangladesh's achievement on the world stage enthusiastically," said the statement.
The comments from Muhith surprised Amartya, who teaches economics at Harvard University in the US.
In a reply to a query from The Daily Star on Thursday, Amartya said, “I am particularly surprised--indeed astonished--to see his [Muhith] attributing to me a view that is not mine."
"Indeed, the alleged utterance is not close to anything I told Muhith when we met briefly at the VIP lounge at the Bangkok airport last month,” the statement added urging Muhith to withdraw his comments.
The Nobel laureate added that he was not at all accusing Yunus of preventing the recognition and praise that Bangladesh deserves.
Meanwhile, Dhaka-based Yunus Centre, which promotes microcredit and social business ideas of the Banker to the Poor, said Prof Yunus has strongly protested the minister's comments linking him with Amartya.
"The allegation of negatively campaigning against Bangladesh has been brought against him [Yunus] in the statement without any evidence and proof."
“Prof Yunus thinks this type of untrue, baseless and fabricated statement from an important minister of the country is undesirable and unfortunate. He requests the minister to refrain from making such confusing comments in future," said a Yunus Centre statement.