Padma bridge ‘not too far’

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Saturday said work on the Padma bridge will begin within two months, despite no funding from the World Bank.

“We can call for tenders next month. It will then take 45 more days to process them ,” Muhith said while opening a competition at the Customs in Chittagong.

The World Bank was to provide $1.2 billion out of the $2.91 billion needed to construct the bridge on the river Padma. On Friday, following a World Bank statement that they will have to wait for a report on corruption allegations before finalising the funding, government refused down World Bank to finance the project.

The Finance Minister had said on Wednesday that he intended to keep the World Bank informed about the progress of the project, describing it to be ‘the best strategy’. “I am keeping them informed.”

He had admitted that the government was in no position to start construction in the last year of its tenure in power with funds from alternative sources, because it obviously takes time to finalise such arrangements.

On asking about snubbing the World Bank, Muhith refrained from comment. He said the government had already spoken on the matter.

“We have said our schedules were not matching. This (Padma bridge) was our electoral promise. Now we see we cannot work with them,” he said.

On asking about how the bridge will be financed, Muhith said the government will implement the project ‘at all cost’. “We will do it with own funds… if not, then we will borrow.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said last week the government will bridge the Padma with its own funds, but she also mentioned India, China and Malaysia as ‘alternative sources of funding’ for what is easily Bangladesh’s biggest infrastructure project so far.

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