The World Bank has advised the government to hasten the Padma Bridge Project after having stalled it two years.
Bangladesh had decided to proceed with the construction of the 6-km-long bridge by keeping the World Bank out of it after a prolonged tussle over the corruptions allegations levelled by the bank.
The World Bank raised the Padma Bridge issue in its report ‘Bangladesh Development Update’ released on Tuesday, urging the government to complete the project as early as possible to improve connectivity.
In 2013, Finance Minister AMA Muhith had sharply criticised the attitude of the Washington-based global lender after deciding to go ahead with the project without World Bank funds.
He had then blamed the institution for a two-year delay in the construction work.
When asked about the bank’s advice, Muhith told bdnews24.com: “I said it before, and I am saying it again that there had been no corruption in the project. The World Bank wasted our two years for no reason.”
The government began preparing to launch the project on its own after the World Bank withdrew in January last year. A Chinese company was given the contract towards the middle of this year to build the bridge’s main infrastructure.
The minister, however, says would like to set aside past bitterness.
“That’s a dead issue. We have begun building the bridge with our own funds and will complete it within the term of the present government,” he said.
The Cabinet on Monday expressed happiness over the quick pace of the project work, said Cabinet Secretary Md Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan after the meeting.
The Awami League had taken the initiative to begin work on the bridge soon after if came to power in 2009 in order to fulfil its electoral pledge.
The World Bank had promised a loan of $1.2 billion for the $2.9 billion project.
The bank, however, made allegations of corruption soon after signing the loan agreement in 2011.
After a series of discussions it agreed to revive its pledge, but on several conditions.
The deal, however, fell through in January 2013 following differences over an investigation into the charges of corruption.
Muhith claims that the bitterness had been caused by the former World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s “obduracy”.
The finance minister, however, said the government would like to forget the past bitterness.
“We must not forget that the World Bank is our biggest development partner. We want the bank to fund big projects, and I hope it will be forthcoming.”
According the bank’s Dhaka office data, it has given $6.6 billion to fund 36 projects.