It’s a major pre-condition of lenders to bankroll $2.2b for proposed Padma Bridge
The government is set to raise toll rates for the users of the Bangabandhu Bridge by 40 per cent on an average after a gap of 12 years in line with suggestions of the lenders, said communication ministry officials.
The country’s major lenders—the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency—have made toll hike as a pre-condition to lend $2.2 billion for building another bridge across the river Padma, they said.
Construction of the Padma Bridge at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion is a priority infrastructure project of the present government that wants to complete it by 2014, starting the work next January.
The communications ministry is now at the final stages to select an eligible international contractor and strike loan deals with lenders for the funds.
Communications minister Abul Hossain told New Age that his ministry was going to seek approval of the cabinet committee for fixing the new toll rates soon.
The new rates, according to sources, would be Tk 40 from existing Tk 30 for a motor cycle, Tk 560 from Tk 400 for a car, Tk 770 from Tk 550 for minibus, Tk 1,100 from Tk 750 for a bus, Tk 1,100 from Tk 750 for a small truck, Tk 1,400 from Tk 1,000 for a medium-type truck and Tk 1,700 from Tk 1,250 for a heavy truck.
The communication minister pointed out that the hike in toll rates was imperative to clear the annual instalment of Tk 152.17 crore as Debt Service Liability to overseas lenders who provided loans for the construction of Banganbandhu Bridge.
The amount of annual instalment would be Tk 191.98 crore as DSL from 2014 onward, he added.
The ministry officials said that they have already taken the consent of the finance ministry which stated that hike in toll rates was imminent although it might put adverse impact on inflation.
The finance ministry officials pointed out that increased tolls could push up the prices of essential commodities like rice, poultry birds, vegetables and fruits as much of the supplies were transported from the northern districts, using the Bangabandhu Bridge.
Commissioned in 1998, the 4.1-kilometre Bangabandhu Multipurpose Bridge, originally named Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge, facilitates non-stop road and railway communication between the northern districts and the rest of Bangladesh, divided by the river Jamuna.
Bangladesh’s successive governments have tried for long to build a bridge across the River Padma to facilitate direct road communication between the south and south-western regions and the rest of the country, divided by the mighty river.
The Padma Bridge would contribute an additional 1.2 per cent to the gross domestic product annually as it would spur economic activities in the less advanced southern districts, said a study by JICA.