Padma Bridge project Muhith hopeful of settlement with WB

Padma Bridge project
Muhith hopeful of settlement with WB
Several others linked with Hallmark scam, he says

Muhith hopeful of settlement with WB
AMA Muhith

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Sunday renewed his optimism about an amicable settlement with the World Bank regarding its funding for the country’s longest Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project, report agencies.

“We’re still working with the World Bank, Jica and ADB. I’m still hopeful there’ll be an amicable solution to this issue. When there’ll be a solution, I’ll let you know,” he told reporters at his Secretariat office.

Referring to the World Bank’s allegation of corruption, Muhith again categorically said, “I still think there was no corruption in the Padma Bridge Project and there’ll be no graft in the future either.”

As the major lending agency is determined to remove the suspicion of corruption and the government has been continuing its efforts in this regard, Muhith said, “It’s not impossible to be united on the issue and I hope various processes on the project will start this month.”

About the proposal from Malaysia, the Finance Minister said the Malaysian government had long been telling about submitting their final proposal for the Padma project, but that proposal is not final.

Asked about the resignation issue of PM’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman, Muhith said, “We haven’t asked anyone to tender resignation.”

He told another questioner that another PM’s Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi would go to Washington anytime to discuss with the global lending agency to revive the Padma Bridge funding.”

In reply to questions whether Dr Mashiur would resign, Muhith declined to make any comment.

“Padma is a massive project for the country,” he said on both from the generic and financing point of views.

Top co-financer World Bank cancelled its committed $1.20 billion loan for the project on June 29. The government has been trying to convince the global lender for revival of its cancelled funding support on grounds of alleged corruption in the selection process of the consultant for building the 6.15-kilometre-long bridge.

The government undertook the Padma Bridge Project in August 2007 estimating the cost then at $1.40 billion (Tk 101.62 billion). Later, the project cost was revised upward at $2.9 billion because of rising costs of construction materials and foreign currency fluctuations.

Later, the four major lenders-WB, ADB, Jica and IDB-made separate commitments to provide an aggregate amount of $2.35 billion as credits to build the bridge.

Apart from the Sonali Bank officials, ‘several others’ are linked with the recent Hallmark Group loan scam and they would be sued ‘soon’, Muhith told reporters.

He, however, said he did not make up his mind on his resignation, as demanded by many quarters after the Bangladesh Bank said more than Tk 36 billion was channelled out of the largest state-run commercial bank as loan.

“Many are trying to flee the country. They’ll be sued soon,” he said in reply to a reporter’s query.

The central bank in its review said Hallmark alone withdrew over Tk 2.6 billion from the Sonali Bank.

The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the matter. Top officials of the companies linked with the scam, including the Sonali Bank, have been interrogated. None has been sued, however, so far.

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