This bridge will be built: ADB

Director General of South Asia Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Juan Miranda has reasserted the bank’s stance as a co-financer in the Padma bridge project and assured of continued support.

“Let me repeat that words that I want in your headline – this bridge will be built,” he told journalists following a meeting with Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith at the Secretariat on Thursday.

When asked whether the Manila-based bank would remain on-board for the project, Miranda reassured: “ADB is as of today and as of tomorrow, ADB is a co-financier in this project.”

To another query whether the ADB would extend the loan effectuation date, he again said, “This bridge will be built.”

The Director General came to Dhaka on Tuesday night on a two-day official trip.

The genesis and further

The Padma bridge project has been in the throes of uncertainty ever since the lead financier, World Bank, cancelled its loan agreement of $1.2 billion for the mega project on June 29 saying it had “credible evidence” of a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials.

On July 31, the ADB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), who were to provide major chunks of the remaining funds needed for the $2.9 billion project, extended their loan effectuation deadline to Aug 31.

The Asian lender has pledged to provide $610 million, while the JICA would contribute $400 million to the project, and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank is committed to another $140 million.

Ever since the World bank pulled itself out of the project, the government has been stating that the bridge would be built with own fund, if need be, but the Finance Minister has been trying to persuade the World Bank to return.

On Aug 28, Muhith reiterated his hopes about the global lender getting on board again to finance the ambitious project. “Still, I have time until Aug 31. Don’t get frustrated. So far nothing has happened to get frustrated.”

Muhith made the observation as newspapers in the last two days had reported that the lending agency would not release the promised fund since all the conditions it had laid down were not fulfilled. It was rumoured that Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor Mashiur Rahman is going to resign as per the bank’s demand, but no such evidence is available to date.

After the Washington-based agency raised allegations of corruption last year, it gave the government some conditions for checking corruption in the project. As those remained unmet, it pulled out of Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project.

In the wake of controversy over the allegation of corruption, former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain resigned in July last year and former Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain was sent on leave.

Loan deadline extension to be urged

When journalists approached to the finance minister on Thursday and asked for his comment, he said, “You got the message.”

The minister said he would not talk with the press on holidays. Friday and Saturday are holiday in Bangladesh.

“I am busy preparing my tax return. I will not talk during the holidays,” he said.

However, on Wednesday, the minister, responding to queries by journalists about whether the government would appeal the project’s co-financers to extend their Aug 31 deadline, said that they ‘might’.

Officials of the ministry’s Economic Relations Department said that the government was indeed drafting a letter for the ADB urging an extension.

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