Padma bridge fund cancellation
Muhith asks WB to review action
Finance minister AMA Muhith on Sunday asserted that the cancellation of credit programme for the Padma Bridge by the World Bank was ‘undesirable’ and ‘mysterious’.
He called upon the World Bank to review its decision.
The finance minister in a press conference in the city said that the information given by the WB in its statement on cancellation of the $1.2 billion loan was ‘inaccurate’ and so ‘not acceptable’.
The WB in its statement issued on Saturday stated that it had ‘credible evidence’ of corruption involving Bangladesh government officials centring the project.
The finance minister told the crowded press conference at the secretariat that what the bank had described
as ‘credible evidence’ was not acceptable.
He was flanked by the prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi and officials of the economic relations division.
‘It is not acceptable as per our law,’ he said adding that the WB should review its decision.
‘We will wait for a review,’ he said in an apparent bid to revive the credit programme for the rail-cum-road bridge over the River Padma.
He said the country’s representative (alternative director) to WB had been negotiating with the WB officials and hoped to reach a solution. Time has not run out, he added.
The finance minister toned down his statement on the WB’s outgoing president Robert Zoellick saying it was his personal view.
‘It was my personal view,’ Muhith said.
The finance minister on Sunday in a statement had pointed the finger at Robert Zoellick for the WB statement saying it should simply be viewed as a personal statement by the bank’s top boss.
The WB had stated that the response of the Awami League government ‘has been unsatisfactory’ to the recommendations for further investigation and punitive action against the suspects.
The finance minister rejected the WB’s claims that the government had not taken any steps after the bank had brought the allegations of corruption.
In his written statement the finance minister said a series of negotiations had taken place between the government officials and the WB last month.
The reporters were given copies of the letters sent by the finance minister to the WB during the negotiations expressing the government’s determination to keep the Padma Bridge project out of corruption.
The finance minister said the government even had agreed to accept the conditions set by the bank by relaxing the country’s many rules and regulations.
He said the WB could not give any credible evidence to establish its claims.
Even the Canadian officials who are now visiting the capital refused to give any evidence for the sake of investigation and trial launched against two former executives of SNC Lavalin, a Canada-based construction firm bidding for the bridge’s supervision work, he said.
The finance minister ruled out establishment of a judicial commission as suggested by many, including Transparency International Bangladesh, to probe the WB’s allegations.
‘My personal opinion on a judicial commission is “no”,’ he said.
The WB’s decision poured cold water on the government’s hope to start construction of the bridge before it serves out in January 2014.
The government, frustrated by the delay in fund release by the WB, struck a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia for the PMB project, one of the major election pledges of the ruling party.
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