Padma Bridge fund collection
Guideline in final stages
No taxes, no question about money sourcesShakhawat Hossain
The government is going to issue a guideline soon for fund collection in the private sector for the construction of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge which became uncertain after the World Bank pulled out of the project over allegations of corruption.
The finance ministry, which will issue the guideline in a day or two, has sent the draft to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval, ministry officials said.
The government will not impose any taxes on donation. It will not also ask any question about the sources of the money.
The ministry officials said that two accounts would be maintained — one for fund collection in local currency and the other for fund collection in foreign currency — with the Sonali Bank, the largest state-owned commercial bank.
Individuals and private parries can donate money to the funds both online and in cash. They can also donate money to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.
A senior secretary said that the guideline, also detailing the management of the funds, was in final stages. The ministry might issue the guideline any time, he told New Age on Wednesday.
The government may also issue a directive banning all kinds of fund collection drives by unauthorised people in the name of the Padma bridge project.
The government is planning to issue such directives in wake of illegal fund collection drives by a section of ruling party student wing activists which has already led to infighting in Rajshahi University where a student was killed.
The government has initiated the move of voluntary fund collection from the people to provide for certain amount of the construction cost, estimated at $2.3 billion or around Tk 240 billion.
It needs to do so to meet the fund shortage caused by the World Bank’s scrapping a $1.2 billion loan to the project late June. Other co-financiers of the project, including the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, also refused to release the loans they committed earlier.
According to the draft guideline, the finance ministry will maintain the funds
as it will be channelled to the consolidated funds under the budget.
The ministry officials said that the funds will be allocated for the implementing ministry under the annual development programme.
The government has already spent bout Tk 15 billion on land acquisition and the rehabilitation of the people affected by the land acquisition on both banks of the River Padma, some 50km off the capital.
Once the government was supposed to pay for 30 per cent of the project cost but its contribution reduced dramatically to 20 per cent after the World Bank got involved in the donor-driven project in 2007–2008.
The finance ministry has also finalised a framework of the self-financed bridge project, the finance minister said a couple of days ago.
He also said they have sent letters to donor agencies, excluding the World Bank, about the self-financing formula and sought their help.
But the officials said that response from the donor agencies was discouraging. The officials said that the finance minister had cancelled a number of overseas tours because of the lacklustre response from donor countries.
The present government is desperate about beginning the construction of the bridge before the next general elections, scheduled for January 2014.
The constriction of the railway-cum-road bridge over the River Padma was its election pledge.
But dilly-dally by the World Bank in releasing the committed fund and finally it cancelling the funding put the government in trouble.
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