the decision over funding of the Padma Bridge will be taken jointly : Muhit

Dhaka, Sep 3 (—Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday said the decision over funding of the Padma Bridge will be taken jointly by the government and the donor agencies including the World Bank.

The minister came up with the announcement at his Secretariat office in the much-awaited press conference which was deferred twice.

“The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency will take the decision together. I also have (a part) in this (decision making),” said Muhith.

“I will go abroad on Sep 9. Then you will be briefed about something,” he added.

Muhith is set to leave for China to attend an international conference for a week. He was supposed to talk about the government’s efforts to get the World Bank back in the project and the latest status of the negotiations.

Last week, while replying to media query, Muhith had said, “I still have time in my hands. I will talk later.”

Last month, the minister had also indicated that obstacles to the project were being removed gradually. On Aug 25, newspapers reported the World Bank would not return unless the project’s Integrity Advisor Mashiur Rahman, who also advises the Prime Minister on economic affairs, was removed in line with its suggestions.

It was among many conditions the global lender had given in September last year for ensuring transparency in the project. The bank pulled out of the project in June this year alleging that the government had failed to take the steps the bank had asked for.

Syed Abul Hossain stepped down as Information and Communication Technology Minister after the World Bank pulled out of the project. He was the Communication Minister when the corruption charges surfaced and then he was moved to the ICT ministry. The Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent on leave.

The World Bank had pledged to provide $ 1.2 billion for constructing the 6-km-long bridge at the cost of $ 2.9 billion. The rest of the amount was supposed to be provided by ADB, JICA and IDB.

The ADB and JICA have extended the deadline for effectuation of the loan contract for the second phase.

Though he did not give any detail about the bridge project, the Finance Minister said he would be giving a statement on the banking sector.

“Perhaps, it will come tomorrow (Tuesday). But (the time) would be communicated to you, (it will not take place) based on your reports,” he said taking a dig at the media speculations.

The largest commercial bank of the country Sonali Bank is currently being investigated over misappropriation of more than Tk 36 billion from its Ruposhi Bangla Hotel Branch. A six-strong team of ACC is conducting the probe that also involves five other institutions including Hallmark Group.

The ACC is also ready to question the Prime Minister’s Health and Family Affairs Advisor Syed Modasser Ali over the scam.

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