Padma Bridge funding
Govt initiates new consortium
Muhith sends letters to ADB, JICA, IDBShakhawat Hossain
The government has taken an initiative to float a new international consortium for funding the Padma Multipurpose Bridge after the World Bank scrapped a $1.2 billion loan for the project, officials said.
Finance minister AMA Muhith on Wednesday sent letters Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the International Islamic Development Bank stating the concept the new consortium.
The finance minister spared the WB as its exit from the donor-driven project over the alleged ‘conspiracy of corruption’ that has forced the government to float the alternative consortium.
ADB, JICA and IDB were also part of the previous consortium in which the WB acted as the main coordinator.
But the consortium became almost inactive after the WB opted to stay out the project.
Many suspected that the new move might prove futile as response from the ADB and the JICA might not come through for a project having been tainted with the allegation of corruption.
Officials of the finance division and economic relations division on condition of anonymity told New Age that under the new concept the government of Bangladesh might emerge as the lead agency.
The finance minister urged the multilateral and bilateral donor agencies to stand by the government stating that the allegation of corruption raised by the WB was ‘unacceptable,’ they said.
Earlier, AMA Muhith on April 23, 2012, hinted that the government was going to replace WB as coordinator of the Padma Bridge project because of delay by WB to
withdraw suspension on fund release.
‘We will take over the responsibility of coordination of the Padma Bridge project under a new design,’ he told reporters after a meeting with visiting Asian Development Bank vice- president Xiaoyu Zhao at his secretariat office on that day.
Former adviser to the caretaker government Mirza Azizul Islam told New Age that none can forecast the future accurately. ‘But my anticipation is that ADB and JICA are unlikely to make any positive response,’ he said.
ADB is a multilateral donor agency which followed same type of operation and management like the WB does.
One the other hand, JICA is a state lending agency of Japan run under a parliamentary democracy. The Japanese Prime Minister might have to face lot of questions for involving in a project from which the World Bank pulled out on corruption allegation, he said.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies senior research director Zaid Bakth said the new government plan seemed to be unfeasible as the ADB said they would follow suit of the World Bank and the JICA stated that they would monitor the government action to address WB concern.
The present government is desperate to start the construction work ahead of the next general election scheduled to be held January 2014. Constriction of the rail-cum-road bridge over the river Padma was its election pledge.
But dillydally by the WB in releasing the committed fund and finally canceling it put the government in a tight corner.
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