World Bank positive on Padma bridge loan

World Bank positive on Padma bridge loan

Amid a series of hectic negotiations, the World Bank has verbally agreed to revive its $1.2-billion loan deal for the Padma bridge project following government steps to meet the Bank’s conditions, highly-placed government sources have said.

The global leader gave the “positive signal” early yesterday after the government formally disengaged the prime minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser, Mashiur Rahman, from government activities to comply with the WB’s last condition.

The WB would make an official announcement about the revival in a few days upon completion of necessary procedures.

The global lender’s “decision” to return to the project came at final negotiations between Bangladesh and the WB at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington yesterday. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi was among a high-level Bangladesh delegation to have joined the talks.

Meanwhile, Hasina at a cabinet meeting yesterday said the government would inform the nation about the much-talked-about loan revival after getting the official notification from the Bank, the sources said.

The premier also said the WB might announce its decision by October 15, according to the sources.

Later in the day, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the talks with the WB had reached a final stage and the government was hopeful about the revival of the credit deal.

“We are expecting a positive decision from the World Bank. I will say nothing at this stage. Let them make the announcement first,” Muhith told reporters at Cirdap auditorium in the capital.

Admitting that Mashiur would indeed remain disengaged from the Padma bridge project’s work and other economic matters of the government, Muhith said, “Both the government and the World Bank have to make some concessions to reach an agreement.”

Yesterday’s talks at the WB headquarters mainly focused on the fate of Mashiur, who was integrity adviser of the $2.97-billion Padma bridge project.

According to the sources, the Bank wanted a letter from the government confirming Mashiur’s leave. But the Bangladesh delegation told the WB that the adviser would remain disengaged from government activities instead of going on leave.

On Wednesday, the government sent a letter to the WB headquarters in line with its demand but it was unclear if it was Mashiur’s leave application, added the sources.

The premier earlier held a one-to-one meeting with Mashiur, but the topic of the discussion could not be known.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hasina, who is also president of the ruling Awami League, asked Mashiur to sit at her political office and work on the party’s economic policies for its next election manifesto.

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. For it to revive the deal, the Bank set four conditions, including the removal of former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and sending Mashiur on leave.

Normally, the WB does not revive a cancelled deal. It has agreed to revive the Padma bridge loan agreement mainly owing to diplomatic efforts.

Apart from Rizvi, AL General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam made hectic efforts to convince diplomats of various countries that have representatives in the WB board, said the sources.

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