Padma bridge is okay, national shame is not
This is, indeed, good news that the World Bank has finally decided to revive the $1.2 billion loan for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge because the World Bank’s are the best terms among other options that the government has so far explored. In the process, however, the government has swallowed a bitter pill, a set of conditions, which would require the incumbents to ensure enhanced oversight to ensure transparent and corruption-free construction of the bridge. While we, at New Age, are generally opposed to many anti-people economic policies imposed by the World Bank on countries such as Bangladesh, we cannot help but support the issue of transparent financial transactions by the government that the bank has raised in the present case. The transparent expenditure of public money, or loans and debts that the governments receive from national and international lending agencies in the name of public good, is essential to ensure the democratic accountability of a government. The World Bank had claimed that it had ‘credible evidence’ of a ‘corruption conspiracy’ hatched by the incumbents about implementing the billion-dollar project and decided to withdraw the fund unless the government removed the alleged criminals from high positions handling the project. The government eventually conceded to the WB demands, and thereby admitted, despite rhetorical political pronouncements, that there was a scheme of corruption in place to plunder the money of the proposed Padma bridge. To receive the funds, the government has now to initiate ‘investigations in a full, fair, and expeditious manner’ against the alleged criminals and set up ‘an independent external panel to review the government’s investigation and report its findings to the government and the World Bank.’ One more demand that we make here is that the government has to make public the investigation reports and bring the government functionaries in question, if found guilty, to justice.
However, the most unfortunate part of the episode is that we, the people of Bangladesh, or the country’s opposition parties for that matter, have not been able to force our government to investigate the allegations of corruption, let alone removing them from high positions of the state. The incident may make our people, even the apparently conscious section of society, depend more on foreign countries and agencies to get our governments accountable to the people in the days to come. This is a matter of shame on part of a populace which had wrestled out national independence through blood and fire. Top leaders of the ruling Awami League needs to realise that it is more shameful for their party, which politically presided over the war of national liberation, to have caused the people to be dependent on the organisations such as the World Bank to fight government corruption in Bangladesh.
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