Govt decides to accept M’asian offer to build Padma Bridge

MoU may be signed in KL in a few days
Nizam Ahmed
Bangladesh has decided to accept a proposal from the government of Malaysia for building a $3.0 billion bridge across the river Padma on Build Own and Transfer (BOT) basis, officials at the Ministry of Communications said on Saturday.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is likely to be signed in the next few days in Kuala Lumpur (KL), where Communications Minister Obaidul Quader would pay a visit in the shortest possible time, a senior official of the ministry said.

The Malaysian proposal forwarded in October last year has been accepted finally as the government is eager to start the construction of the bridge before it ends its tenure in late 2013, officials have said.

The MoU was earlier scheduled to be signed on April 10, they said.

“I think we are going to Kuala Lumpur and the MoU will be signed as announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” the Communications Minister told the FE.

PM Hasina is the final authority and after an announcement from her, no one is needed to reconfirm the decision of accepting the Malaysian proposal for building the Padma Bridge, Obaidul Quader added.

While addressing a meeting of the central committee of Awami League on Friday, the Prime Minister said the Padma Bridge would be built with Malaysian fund.

PM Hasina told the meeting that she and her Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would watch the signing of the MoU through video conferencing.

“S Samy Vellu, Malaysia’s special envoy to India and South Asia, is likely to be my counterpart at the signing the MoU,” Obaidul Quader said.

After the signing of the MoU both sides will decide the terms of reference of building the bridge, which was earlier estimated to cost some $2.9 billion.

“However the building cost is likely to be re-estimated as the cost of building materials and other relevant expenditures have increased in the meantime,” a senior official at the Bridge Division of the Communications Ministry told the FE.

Facts and data concerning such as how many years would be needed to build the bridge, what would be the rate of tolls and how and at what proportions the tolls would be shared by the relevant authorities of the two countries would be determined after the MoU, the official said.

“Our officials should have a strong bargaining ability so that both sides could enjoy a win-win position,” a former senior official of the ministry said.

With the latest decision of the government, it is presumed that the authorities concerned will not further look to realising the fund for the bridge from the World Bank (WB) and the other financiers who had agreed to finance the bridge with an amount of $2.9 billion in 2010 and suspended the funding a year later on alleged corruption charges in the bidding process on short-listing the intending firms.

The WB, probing the alleged irregularities in the bidding process for the bridge, has temporarily barred a unit of SNC-Lavalin, a big Canadian engineering company, from bidding in the Bank’s new projects.

SNC-Lavalin has offices across Canada and in over 40 other countries around the world, and is currently working in some 100 countries.

Besides, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has confirmed $615 million, Japan $420 million and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) $140 million for the 6.15-kilometre bridge across the river Padma. But eventually their funds became inoperative. adds: Even as the probable date for signing a MoU with Malaysia on the Padma bridge project funding has been finalised, the finance minister says he is not ruling out possibility of funding by the World Bank (WB)-led donor agencies.

“The Malaysian government has expressed its interest in constructing the Padma bridge project. The MoU might be signed on Apr 10. But there’re no condition as such to cancel agreements with the World Bank and other donor agencies if the MoU is signed with Malaysia,” Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said at an interview with the news agency on Saturday.

The finance minister said signing of an MoU for anything is merely an expression of mutual interest by two parties and there are several steps to follow. “What exactly they want to do regarding the Padma Bridge, what we want… all these are yet to be finalised,” he said.


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