Padma bridge work from Oct: Muhith

Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Monday said the construction work of the country’s biggest-ever infrastructure project Padma bridge will begin from this October.

His remarks came at a pre-budget meeting with the representatives of the parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry at the National Economic Council’s conference room in the capital.

He, however, did not make it clear with whose financing the work on the project would start.

The government had struck deals with the World Bank and several other donor agencies to build the 6.15-km bridge. But the World Bank suspended its funding in October last year over allegations of corruption in the much-hyped project.

According to the deals with the donor agencies, the World Bank was supposed to give a $1.2-billion loan to the government for the $2.9-billion project.

Apart from the global lending agency, Asian Development Bank (ADB) had pledged $610 million, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) $400 million and Islamic Development Bank $140 million, but all of them are yet to disburse money.

The government is supposed to supply the remaining money for the project.

Amid confusion over the project, Malaysia in February came up with offer to help construct Bangladesh most ambitious project and its cabinet on Mar 25 approved funding for the same.

Bangladesh and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Apr 10 on the multipurpose bridge’s construction.

After signing the MoU in Kuala Lumpur, communications minister Obaidul Quader told on his return to the country that the final deal to build the bridge would be inked after Malaysia submits a detailed proposal.

The finance minister, however, on Apr 7 said, “There’re no condition as such to cancel agreements with the World Bank and other donor agencies if the MoU is signed with Malaysia.”

Meanwhile, the Washington-based global lending agency’s country director Ellen Goldstein has said the Bank would wait to take a final decision until the report of the primary investigation going on in Canada is out.

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