World Bank (WB) country director Ellen Goldstein will leave Dhaka for Washington today (Saturday) to discuss the funding of Padma Bridge with at officials concerned at the Bank headquarters.
“Actually the country office has no capacity to give a decision on the issue that has been stalled because of allegation of corruption. So, our country director is going to inform the headquarters of the latest development and discuss the next steps,” a senior official at the WB told the FE Friday seeking anonymity.
The effectiveness of the memo signed between the government and the WB for US$ 1.2 billion credit for construction of Padma Bridge will expire on January 27 next.
The government has removed the bridges division secretary, the secretary of the ministry of communications, and finally the communications minister following the allegation of corruption made by the WB. The lender had made it clear that they would not fund the project unless action was taken against the then communications minister Syed Abul Hossain.
After the WB had suspended its assistance offer for the bridge on allegation of corruption, other consortium members like Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Islamic Development Bank also followed suit.
Officials involved with the process told the FE that as part of the preparation for her Washington visit Ms Goldstein had meetings with Finance Minister AMA Muhith and newly appointed Communications Minister Obaidul Quader where the ministers sought her cooperation to settle the dispute.
The government wants release of the WB money for the Padma Bridge before the effectiveness of the agreement expires.
Sources said Ms Goldstein has assured the ministers that she will inform the lender’s top bosses about the latest development and the steps the government has taken so far.
The proposed 6.15 km Padma multipurpose bridge project over the Padma river will cost US$ 2.9 billion which will connect the country’s 19 south-western districts with the capital.
To settle the dispute the government earlier sent detailed explanation to the headquarters of the WB. Besides, it also issued a press note explaining details which even could not impress the major lender.
An official at the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said that since the Padma Bridge funding issues are still uncertain, they couldn’t hold the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) meeting which was scheduled for November 1-2 last.
The government has suspended the BDF meet on WB’s request, he said.
BDF is a high-profile meeting between the government and the development partners where both discuss possible funding by the lenders. In the meeting donors get a clear scenario of their funded projects and seek explanations from the government about the development works carried out.