WB revives Padma bridge loan
WB sets a series of pre-requisites for its return
The World Bank (WB) has formally decided to revive its $1.2 billion loan deal for Padma bridge project.
“The World Bank has agreed that, upon satisfactory implementation of the agreed measures by the government, and with the support of the WB’s governing bodies, it will engage anew in the Padma bridge project,” a statement of the WB released on early Friday said.
Though the WB agreed to revive the loan, the statement said, “The World Bank remains vigilant to any signs of corruption in the Padma bridge project, and our determination to take a strong line against wrongdoing will never waver. If implemented properly, the bridge has the potential to deliver remarkable benefits to the people of Bangladesh, who deserve transparent use of public money, clean implementation of the project and a high-quality bridge to spur growth and development for years to come.”
The WB cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma bridge project on June 29, saying it had proof of a corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some private individuals, whose identities have remained a mystery.
After the exposure of the corruption, the statement said, “The WB’s investigative unit previously shared with the government of Bangladesh credible evidence of corruption related to our financing of the bridge, and the WB had identified a series of clear measures to be implemented by the government for the WB to remain engaged with the project, which the government of Bangladesh had failed to meet.”
For it to revive the deal, the global lender set some conditions. These included: (i) placing all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave from government employment until the investigation is completed, (ii) appointing a special inquiry and prosecution team within the Bangladeshi Anti-Corruption Commission to handle the investigation, (iii) agreeing to provide full access to all investigative information to an external panel of internationally recognised experts so that they can give guidance to the WB and co-financiers on the progress, adequacy, and fairness of the investigation, and (iv) agreeing on new implementation arrangements that gives the WB and co-financiers greater oversight of project procurement processes.
The key financier of the project also said following the cancellation of the credit, the Bangladesh government took actions necessary to fulfill the above measures.
The government has also begun to address the evidence of corruption the WB identified, the statement added.
The World Bank understands that all government employees and officials alleged to have been involved in corrupt acts in connection with the project have been put on leave from government service until an investigation is completed, and that a full and fair investigation is now underway.
The global lender also showed it reason behind the revival of the loan deal saying “In its communication with the World Bank about the fulfillment of these measures, the government of Bangladesh requested the WB to consider again the financing of the Padma bridge.”
It also said, “The government agreed to a series of measures as a pre-requisite for any renewed implementation. These include new procurement arrangements with enhanced oversight, to ensure transparency and clean construction of the bridge; investigations proceeding in a full, fair, and expeditious manner; and an independent External Panel to review the investigation and report their findings to the government and the World Bank.”
Meanwhile, Awami League expressed gratitude to World Bank for its decision of reviving loan for Padma bridge project.
“Through a fruitful negotiation we have eliminated the misapprehension. We are grateful to World Bank for its agreeable consideration,” AL Joint General Secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif told The Daily Star.
He also said after the loan revival, the start of the Padma bridge construction would help AL keep its election promise to North Bengal people.