Padma bridge financing revived
Now it should move ahead at full speed
We express satisfaction at the news that the World Bank (WB) has given verbal commitment to revive the stalled $1.2bn loan for Padma Bridge. Congratulations are due for both the government and the WB in being able to overcome months of impasse to reach an agreement due to be announced sometime on Friday. We would like to put in an added word of appreciation for the Minister of Finance, who in the face of tremendous pressure kept his faith in the project specially at a time when the highest public officials of the government had engaged themselves in a tirade of abuse against the WB. The flurry of behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts by government officials this month in ironing out differences with the lead agency of the consortium has borne fruitful dividends and this is reflected by WB’s willingness to return to the negotiation table a move we greatly appreciate.
There are lessons to be learnt here. Needless to say, there have been shortcomings on both sides. Precious time has been wasted on unnecessary foot dragging on whether or not the information furnished by WB on alleged corruption on a number of public officials was proof enough for action. The anti-corruption commission’s (ACC) half-hearted attempts at investigating the evidence provided all colluded in creating an unnecessary impasse. One would have thought given the experience surrounding Abul Hossain’s resignation, the futility of the exercise would not be repeated with Mashiur Rahman, but that is precisely what happened. Personal ego and a false sense of honour were once again taking precedence over national interest. We are thankful that good sense has prevailed and the final hurdle holding up a renegotiation has been removed.
It is now imperative that we move forward with resuscitating the stalled project expeditiously. The WB has set a number of measures that include appointing a special inquiry and prosecution team within the ACC to handle the investigation and providing access to all investigative material to an external panel of internationally recognised experts that will provide the government, WB and its co-financiers with necessary oversight on project procurement procedures. What ought to be remembered that such stringent measures are not specific to Bangladesh. Rather they are internationally accepted practices that ensure good governance and are a safeguard against potential graft. Given that the project has suffered months of setbacks, we look forward to both parties taking concrete steps to ensure minimum delays in getting the construction project off the ground.