The World Bank that agreed anew to fund Padma bridge construction is not joining the meeting of the co-financiers on Monday. An ADB team arrived in Dhaka on Sunday for the joint meeting of four co-financiers, but the World Bank delegates to the pre-scheduled talks postponed their trip at the last minute.
At least two World Bank officials in Dhaka, who refused to be named, told bdnews24.com Sunday night that the delegates from Washington would not arrive on Monday as planned.
One of the officials told bdnews24.com: “The World Bank delegates have postponed their trip to Dhaka to attend the meeting. So, no World Bank representatives will be coming on Oct 1.”
But he could not say when that delegation would arrive in Dhaka.
The official also said another team of the global lender which was supposed to be in the city to discuss the investigation of the corruption allegations is not coming either.
While the ADB men from Manila landed in Dhaka in time, officials of JICA said their Dhaka team would represent the Japanese aid agency to the consultations.
The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), which has committed $ 140 million, will give the money for the $2.9 billion bridge regardless.
The World Bank committed $1.2 billion in loans, the ADB $610 million and the JICA $400 million with the rest coming from Bangladesh government.
Meanwhile, ADB Dhaka office’s Senior External Relations Officer Gobinda Bar told bdnews24.com: “A two-member team led by ADB South Asia Transport Division Director Sri Widowati from Manila arrived in Dhaka.”
After officially announcing to return to the Padma bridge project, the Washington-based global lender in a press release on Sept 25 had said that the Bangladesh government officials were misrepresenting its position in the media and they would go ahead with the financing of the project only after ‘satisfactory implementation’ of all these measures.
The World Bank suspended its pledged $1.2 billion credit in September last year citing suspected corruption by high level government officials involved in the project. It set four conditions for its return to the project but cancelled the deal on June 29 saying no measures were taken to meet those.
The government immediately 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 the process, former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain eventually resigned and Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent on leave while Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Advisor and the project’s Integrity Advisor Moshiur Rahman was removed from the project.
After the government met all the conditions set by the bank, it issued a statement on Sept 20 announcing its return to the biggest-ever infrastructural project in Bangladesh.
Economic Relations Division Secretary Iqbal Mahmud at a press briefing on Sept 23 had said that representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency will be arriving in Dhaka next week from Washington, Manila and Tokyo.
A statement issued by the global lending body on Sept 20 said, “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.”
The government had struck the deal with four international lenders – World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Islamic Development Bank – for building the bridge which was one of its major electoral pledges.
A design for the 6-km long two-storied bridge establishing rail and road communications with the southern region was finalised. The government also began taking over land for the bridge.
The crisis began to unfold after Canadian engineering firm SNC Lavalin was charged by Canadian police with corruption in the bidding process for getting a supervisor for the project. Then the World Bank had suspended the pledged loan.
The World Bank pull-out saw the other lenders to suspend their part of the loan. However, the ADB and the JICA had extended their disbursement deadline twice at the government’s request.