The government is likely to miss the target to lay the first stone for the main bridge construction of the 6.15-km Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) project in December this year due to delay in channelising donor funds and completion of the final design.
Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain recently reiterated his stance to begin the PMB main bridge construction in December this year, though the lead lending agency—World Bank (WB)—is planning to sign the loan agreement with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) next year.
Meanwhile, sources associated with the PMB project said the detailed design, which is a vital input for preparing the final drawing of the bridge, would not be submitted before December.
Considering the twin crucial factors, it looks most unlikely that the government would be able to start the main bridge construction by December. When contacted, a WB spokesperson in Dhaka expressed optimism that the loan agreement between the GoB and WB for committing $1.2 billion would be signed in the beginning of the next year.
“The WB considers the Padma bridge project as one of the flagship projects of the bank and the WB president has promised another $300 million loan in addition to the previously committed $1,200 million,” said spokesperson Mehrin Mahbob.
She said the latest decision came off a meeting between WB president Robert Zoellick and Bangladesh’s Finance Minister AMA Muhith in Washington early this month. She said the WB laid importance on construction of the Padma Bridge a view to improving socio-economic condition of the people of the southwest region.
“The bank believes that economic opportunities in the region will increase once the bridge is erected. It thus would contribute to the Gross Domestic Production of the country,” she said.
For the $2.40-billion PMB project, the WB is the major portion lender with the promised financing of $1,200 million. Other lenders include JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), IDB (Islamic Development Bank), ADB (Asian Development Bank) and Abu Dhabi (UAE), according to the sources. The sources further said that the delay in signing the loan agreement between the GoB and WB was because of the latter’s opposition to the earlier list of potential international bidders, prepared by the project implementing agency — Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA).
In the wake of the WB’s objection last month with regard to the competence of the short-listed international bidders, the BBA has cancelled the result of the pre-qualification procedure for the main bridge contract and again floated a ‘Re-invitation’ of tenders last week to select a competent contractor.
Some 10 international contestants had procured the bidding documents till Thursday afternoon while the number of participating international bidders was 36 in the previous tender procedure, said a top official of the project seeking anonymity.
“What we need now is to convince the lead-lender WB regarding the competence of the selected contractor for carrying out the main bridge work before obtaining conformity on loan-flow from the lenders,” he said.
However, he expected huge participation of many internationally-reputed bidders before expiry of the deadline for submission of bidding documents on November 24.
Sources said another vital task to be accomplished before the main bridge construction commenced was to get ready the project’s detailed design, which was unlikely to be completed by December this year. Quoting the consulting firm Maunsell AECOM Ltd, the sources said, “The fact is that there is little possibility of completing the detailed design before December.”
According to a the pre-feasibility study, the government had earlier set the target to begin the implementation of the Phase-II work—the main bridge construction of the PMB project—from December 2010 and completing the entire work by December 2013.