Govt efforts continue to get over spat with WB

Padma Bridge project
Munima Sultana
The government is continuing its efforts to get over the spat with the World Bank (WB), caused by alleged irregularities in the bidding process for the country’s costly Padma Bridge project, officials have said.

They said on Wednesday Finance Minister AMA Muhith, who is now in the United States, had a number of meetings with the senior officials of the Washington-based lending agency and continued his efforts to persuade its officials to release the tender documents for the 6.15-kilometre Padma Bridge work.

“More meetings might be held with the finance minister,” said an official preferring not to be named.

He, however, added that there was yet to be any favourable result from the meetings for the country.

The $2.9 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project has faced a severe blow during its implementation since it started in 2009 after the World Bank’s Integrity Department launched an investigation against a Canadian firm which was one of the short-listed companies for the project’s supervision work early September.

The ministry concerned and the Bridge Division officials said they had an expectation that there would be positive news when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned from the US after attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

“Still there is no such report,” the official said.

After her return, a meeting was held between the Prime Minister and the Communications Minister on Saturday. Officials, however, could not receive any information on the outcome of the meeting.

“We are still lobbying, and still continuing efforts to persuade the World Bank to soften its stance,” said a senior official of the Bridge Division.

He, however, said the Finance Minister was informed about the possible visit to the country by the WB’s Integrity Department officials. But there was no further information on the issue, he added.

When contacted, the World Bank Dhaka office refrained from making any comment on the developments of the talks, but said “dialogue is going on with the government”.

Both the World Bank and the Bridge Division confirmed that the scheduled Bangladesh visit of the Bank’s Executive Director and the Lead Economist in the first week of October to oversee the Padma Bridge work has been postponed.

The WB also refrained from making comments on the cancellation of the visit.

Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, however, said there was no problem with the Padma Bridge project from the government’s side but added that the project has been delayed due to some ‘problems’ in the World Bank’s system.


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