Padma Bridge dilemmaMd Mahiul Kadir Dhaka University
A GOOD communication system is a prerequisite for economic development of any country. Especially in a third world country like Bangladesh, it is essential for road and inland connectivity. For example, the Jamuna Bridge has reduced poverty in North Bengal where monga, a seasonal shock, was a big problem as people were unemployed for a certain period before the harvest. Now such stories are history. People can easily come to Dhaka for earning money during such times. There has been a noticeable development in the agricultural sector with farmers cultivating a variety of crops which are directly provided in various corners of the country.
Similarly, the Padma Bridge is expected to serve the people from the southern part of the country. They suffer a lot and cannot mobilise their goods timely due to lack of a proper communications system. If this bridge is completed, people from places such as Madaripur and Faridpur could maintain their office times or business activities from their home. Dhaka would also feel less pressure of a massive population.
Apart from this, road connectivity would give people numerous other benefits. The agriculture sector will be developed in that fresh vegetables could be transported to the capital and other cities in a short time. The educational system will also benefit as students and teachers can have better interaction and involvement with schools and colleges in Dhaka. Furthermore, it will make doctors less reluctant to travel to remote areas for providing healthcare to a large number of underprivileged people.
Bangladesh being one of the worst victims of climate change, the southern part of the country is under grave threat of being inundated permanently by 2030, which will force a huge migration of southerners to Dhaka. In such situations, strong road connectivity will help the government, NGOs and victims for rescue operations and other necessary assistance.
Unfortunately, the World Bank has cancelled their credit to build the bridge, alleging corrupt involvement of the government. Although corruption exists in all countries, in the developing world its effects are severe. Our government refutes such claims by the World Bank. Our finance minister said to the media that no country would have accepted such an objection as flexibly as we did. But our question is: on what basis did the government say that they are seeking alternative sources of funding? Our prime minister said the bridge would be built with our own fund. But our economic condition is not good enough for such funding. If we go ahead with the partnership with Malaysia, we will have to give them a significant amount for them to operate, raise the money, and then repay. It may take up to 36 years. For 36 years, we may not get much out of the bridge. If the construction of the bridge was through the World Bank, we would have the ownership of the bridge and would continue to repay our own loan.
Our government should take another initiative for an agreement with the World Bank. Only the loan from them can save our interests and ensure our ownership of the bridge. This construction is part of our people’s fate.
Md Mahiul Kadir
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