Muhith hopeful about WB ‘rethink’

padma1Finance Minister AMA Muhith has welcomed World Bank rethink on financing projects tainted by allegations of corruption.

He believes the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings 2014 starting from Oct 10 in Washington DC will be significant.

Muhith feels the meet is consequential for Bangladesh, which decided to proceed with the Padma bridge project with its own funds following the cancellation of WB funding.

“We have begun work on the Padma bridge with our own funds. If they want to participate in it now, they will have to join at the point we currently stand and on the basis of tenders that have been invited,” he said.

Recently, in a speech in advance of the WB-IMF Annual Meetings, President Jim Yong Kim spoke about the World Bank Group’s goal of boosting shared prosperity.

“We are working to ensure that the growth of the global economy will improve the lives of all members of society, not only a fortunate few,” he said.

In the three-day conference the WB and the IMF will finalise their plans for the next one year.

The World Bank had expressed its willingness to rejoin the Padma bridge project last year after withdrawing funding for it in June 2012, but the government spurned the renewed offer and decided to proceed with its own resources.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced a change in its policy regarding the funding of projects facing charges of corruption.

It has said it would investigate such allegations against projects funded by it without pulling out.

Muhith said the WB-IMF meet was ‘very significant’ for Bangladesh and added that the “dream project” would have to be completed within the term of the present government.

Before leaving for the USA with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sept 24, Muhith had told “The World Bank should have fought corruption while remaining a part of the project. Instead, they wasted two years.”

He said sense had dawned on the WB. “In their last Country Assistance Strategy Progress Report, the WB said it would not cancel projects with alleged malpractices but would fight corruption by sticking to the project. If this sense had downed on them earlier, the construction of the Padma bridge would have made considerable progress by now.”

This rethink on funding on the WB’s part would be beneficial for developing countries like Bangladesh, he said.

As earlier, Muhith insisted that there had been no malpractices in the bridge project.

He said the charges levelled by the WB were true of other ventures, too.

He blamed the WB for the project being delayed by two years. “The work that could have begun in 2012, began in 2014.”

As the finance minister of Bangladesh, Muhith will lead an 18-member delegation to the WB-IMF meet beginning on Oct 10.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman, Alternative Executive Director of the WB in Washington Mohammad Tarek, Finance Secretary Mahbub Ahmed and Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Mohammad Mejbahuddin are among the members of the delegation.

Before that, he will take part in the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting at the IMF headquarters in Washington on Wednesday.


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