Japan keeps mum on Padma Bridge loan, govt in a fix

Time needed to confirm the loan: JICA
FHM Humayan Kabir
The Japanese government is yet to confirm its loan for the Padma Bridge construction project despite Bangladesh government’s repeated requests to the large bilateral donor for bankrolling the massive scheme, officials said.

“We have so far sent several requests to Japanese funding agency JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) for confirming their investment in the Padma Bridge project. But the donor agency is yet to give any reply,” a senior finance ministry official said.

He said: “Last time in mid-April, we have pleaded JICA for confirming its assistance. But we have not got any response till date.”

Non-confirmation of funds by Japan, the country’s largest bilateral donor, has baffled the government as it is all set to construct the Padma Bridge, which will require a huge US$ 2.40 billion in investment, the official said.

Bangladesh government has undertaken the project at a cost of US$ 2.40 billion for building the 6.15 kilometre road-cum-railway bridge over the river Padma at Mawa-Janjira point.

It has requested different donors to finance the project as the government has shortage of funds for building the proposed expensive bridge, largest in the country.

The World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund have already pledged to bankroll nearly $1.90 billion funds for constructing the bridge.

Out of the funds, the World Bank will provide $1.20 billion, ADB $550 million, IDB $130 million and the Abu Dhabi Fund of the UAE government $30 million.

The finance ministry official said during the project preparation stage the Japanese government had assured Bangladesh of bankrolling the project. “But later the donor started to go slow on their funding,” he added.

An economic relations division (ERD) official said: “We have sent requests to JICA in the middle of April for confirming their loan for the Padma Bridge project. But we have not got any reply till date.”

JICA in 2005 conducted a feasibility study on the proposed Padma Bridge project and handed it over to the government. Later, the government in 2008 has appointed a New Zealand-based consulting firm for conducing the feasibility study again.

“As the government has not taken into account the JICA’s study, it has become unhappy. I think it is one of the reasons behind Japan’s go-slow policy concerning the Padma Bridge project,” the ERD official added.

The government has already invited bids from international firms to construct the 6.15km Padma multipurpose bridge.

The ERD official said the government was expecting at least $300 million aid from the Japanese government. “But it is not responding to us now when we request it for confirming the loan.”

In the middle of April, we requested JICA to bankroll three projects including Padma Bridge, and Khulna city water supply and SME financing schemes under the next loan package.

A JICA official requesting anonymity told the FE that they had been scrutinising the government’s request. “As the Japanese financial year has just started in April, it requires some time to confirm the aid,” it added.

“We are hopeful of continuing support to the Bangladesh government,” the official said.

A joint donor-government survey showed that Padma Bridge will boost the country’s gross domestic product by 1.2 per cent, revive the prospects of Mongla Port and cut poverty in the poorer south-western region.

thefinancialexpress

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