Govt got time to deal with WB, says Finance Minister A M A Muhith

Govt got time to deal with WB, says Muhith

Star Online Report

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Friday said the government got some more time to deal with the World Bank to revive its credit for the Padma bridge project.

“We are very much optimistic about the revival of the Padma bridge loan with the World Bank,” he told reporters while coming out of his residence.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) extended its loan effectuation deadline by three weeks on Friday.

Earlier, the Asian Development Bank extended its loan effectuation deadline by another month on Thursday.

The loan effectuation date of the co-financers was due to expire on Friday.

The ADB and Jica came up with the extension in response to a request by the government. The Economic Relations Division (ERD) on Thursday wrote to the lenders for giving the government some more time to deal with the lead financer.

The WB cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma bridge project on June 29 for what it had said was a corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and individuals.

Later, the global lender in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed five new conditions for the government to ensure corruption-free implementation of the project.

WB Vice President Isabel Guerrer elaborated the steps the government has to take to get its funding for the massive project.

In her letter, the WB vice president said a high-powered investigation team has to be formed to probe the allegations of corruption in the bridge project, an independent firm has to be appointed to monitor implementation of the project.

Another condition is that the co-financiers will have to be actively involved in the procurement process for the bridge.

Besides, the WB suggested that as a long-term step, the government will take initiative to increase the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The government has disagreed with some of the conditions, and asked the WB to revise those.

Work on the bridge project has remained stalled since September last year after the WB submitted a report to the government in September.

In April this year, the bank submitted a second report based on the findings of the Canadian government’s investigation into allegations of graft in appointment of a supervising consultant for the bridge.

Against this backdrop, the government has taken initiatives for finding alternative sources of fund and signed recently a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia for funding the bridge project.

On July 23, Information and Communication Technology Minister Syed Abul Hossain resigned from his position.

Abul tendered his resignation a day after the finance minister said the government had been considering accepting the WB’s fourth condition to persuade the global lender to review the cancellation of the Padma bridge loan.

Recently, highly placed government source said prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman has to resign to meet the conditions the World Bank has laid down to revive its credit for Padma bridge.

But the adviser has denied any involvement in the alleged corruption in the Padma bridge project, and said the government has not yet asked him to resign.

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