Padma bridge work ‘by April/May’

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith expects the construction work of the much-hyped Padma bridge to begin by April/May next year. “The tender for the bridge construction work will be floated in October and we will lay the foundation for the bridge in either April or May,” Muhith told reporters at the Finance Ministry on Monday.

“The World Bank has already agreed to the modalities suggested by me for the bridge construction. They also have some tender documents. They are scrutinising those,” he said.

“We should go for tender,” Muhith added.

Muhith briefed reporters for the first time on Monday since the Washington-based global lender officially announced on Sep 21 its return to the Padma bridge project.

The World Bank had suspended its pledged $1.2-billion credit last year raising graft allegations against some senior government officials, and set some conditions for its return to the project.

It finally cancelled the deal on June 29 saying no measures were taken to meet those conditions.

The government responded by announcing that the bridge would be built with own resources, if need be, but continued pursuing the World Bank for reconciliation.

As part of understanding with the global lending agency, former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain resigned and Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent on leave.

Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor Dr Moshiur Rahman, who was the Integrity Advisor of the project, was also removed from the project.

After the government met all the conditions set by the bank, it issued a statement on Sep 20 saying, “The Bank has agreed that upon satisfactory implementation of the agreed measures by the government, and with the support of the Bank’s governing bodies, the Bank will engage anew in the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.”

When asked whether a new deal would have to be signed with the global lender as it had cancelled the previous agreement, Economic Relations Division Secretary Iqbal Mahmud said, a delegation of the World Bank was due in Dhaka.

“A final decision will be made after talks with them,” he added.

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