B’desh, WB sit next week to settle ‘Padma Bridge rip-off’

FHM Humayan Kabir
A high-powered Bangladesh delegation will sit with World Bank in Washington to settle alleged “Padma Bridge rip-off” next week as the global lender has warned Bangladesh of irregularities, officials said Saturday.

The delegation to be led by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, will also seek confirmation of US$1.0 billion budgetary support credit, assured by the World Bank (WB), to bankroll the country’s fiscal deficit.

Finance Ministry officials said a nine-member team headed by Muhith will take part on the Bank-Fund (World Bank-International Monetary Fund) Annual Meeting in Washington on September 23-25 where it will meet the World Bank high officials in the sideline.

“Since the WB has warned the government of alleged corruption in the multi-billion dollar Padma Bridge project, the team will try to settle it,” a senior Economic Relations Division (ERD) official told the FE.

The Washington-based lender has recently launched an investigation into the alleged corruption in the bidding process of the proposed Padma Bridge project as a Canadian aspirant firm has allegedly paid bribe to the Bangladesh’s communications minister to grab the supervisory job.

Bangladesh’s communications minister has refuted the allegation. Following the WB’s allegation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also ordered probe into alleged irregularities.

WB headquarters has already sought help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of Canada which has raided the offices of Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin near Toronto to probe the alleged fraud.

WB Vice President Ms. Isabel Guerrero warned Bangladesh government about the alleged tip-off in the bidding process for the Padma Bridge scheme during her visit to Dhaka last week.

The ERD official said since Bangladesh needs fund from the largest lender WB which committed $1.20 billion credit to begin construction of the country’s mega $2.9 billion Padma Bridge scheme, the delegation will discuss with top officials of the WB.

He said the delegation will meet WB vice president Ms. Guerrero, its Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati, head of the WB team working on Bangladesh’s projects to discuss the Padma Bridge project and other development issues on the sideline of the Bank-Fund meeting.

Besides, Muhith and his team members will also seek finalisation of the $1.0 billion budgetary support credit during the discussion.

The Washington-based global lender in 2010 assured Bangladesh of providing US$1.0 billion credit as budgetary support, to be released in three years since 2010-11 fiscal.

The billion dollar assistance is yet to be finalised due to failure of complying with WB’s terms and condition to get the loan, a finance ministry official said.

The government’s domestic borrowing in the last fiscal swelled to minimise the deficit of the budget as the government did not get any budgetary support from donors, he said.

In addition, the Balance of Payment (BoP) in the last fiscal 2010-11 has shown a $635 million negative balance after a decade.

Bangladesh delegation in Washington is also expected to meet Deputy Managing Director of International Monetary Fund (IMF), Indian finance minister and Chinese delegation on the sideline of the Bank-Fund Annual Meeting in Washington.

The WB and IMF will hold the annual meeting to share experiences of their last one year’s work and future plan for building a hunger-free world.


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