Govt to go ahead with building Padma Bridge without World Bank aid

Nizam Ahmed
Authorities will go ahead for construction of the proposed Padma Bridge even without assistance from the World Bank (WB), which has suspended funding of its proposed portion over a suspected graft attempt, officials said on Friday.

The WB temporarily suspended a promised loan of $1.2 billion on October 10, on alleged grounds of corruption in the process of short-listing the contractors for construction of the $2.9 billion multipurpose mega bridge.

Later, the Asian Development Bank and Japan have also put on hold the release of their respective part of funds committed for the Padma Bridge project. The case with the release on the part of the committed fund by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the project is, however, not clear until now.

The government has taken the suspension of funding particularly by the WB, before what it called, ‘substantiating the allegation’ as illogical, and decided to go ahead with the works of the project even if the lead lender does not settle the issue, leaders of the ruling Awami League and officials said.

The decision to go ahead with the challenge of building the 6.15-km bridge, an election pledge of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was taken by the government, following a meeting of the ruling party on Thursday, party leaders said.

“The government has to build the bridge for fulfilling its commitment of linking the southwestern region of the country with the capital,” Abdus Sahid, a senior leader and the chief whip of the parliament told the FE.

The government hopes that all quarters including the opposition party would like to see the bridge as a reality and would therefore extend cooperation to the government in fulfilling the national dream, he said.

“If World Bank backs out, no matter, we will have other options for funding the project, from several other potential sources,” Mr. Abdus Sahid quoted the prime minister as telling the meeting.

“The government has nothing to say against the WB. If it (WB) thinks it is not feasible it may not lend us the money. But we have to build it (bridge) anyway,” he added.

The prime minister made her remark hours after a Malaysian special envoy reportedly told her that Kuala Lumpur would be willing to consider extending soft loans for the bridge project.

Meanwhile, the government and the Anti-Corruption Commission have separately asked the WB to clarify the charges and the nature of corruption, last week officials said.

The government which has already passed half of its present electoral tenure is now much serious at least about starting and completing a part of the bridge before the completion of its term by early 2014, party officials said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed the WB for delaying the process for short listing of firms, raising some unfounded suspicion in 2010.

To explore other options for funding of the project, the government has already begun talks with some other friendly countries with its strong conviction that the required fund could be arranged under state-to-state deals with nominal interest and charges, sources within the ruling party said.


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