A M A Muhit

Muhith raps World Bank

Sun, 01/07/2012

 Dhaka, Sep 3 (bdnews24.com)—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.The Finance Minister has slammed the World Bank for its decision to cancel the US$ 1.2 billion Padma bridge loan, and called it unacceptable.

“I have serious doubts about whether the World Bank can at all issue such a statement,” A M A Muhith told bdnews24.com in the first reaction from a senior government functionary since the Bank statement late Friday.

“To me, this sounds more like a personal statement from the former president Robert Zoellick rather than the Bank itself,” Muhith said Saturday afternoon.

The Bank said in the statement that it was cancelling the single largest credit line in its history because it had “credible evidence of corruption”.

AMA Muhith, talking to bdnews24.com, said the multi-billion dollar project had only spent Tk 1200 crore (roughly US$ 150 million) and that the government had had no proof of any wrongdoing by anyone so far.

“The World Bank allegation is totally false and incorrect,” the minister said.

“For the last nine months since the Bank came up with the charge, we have been conducting inquiries and found nothing,” he said.

The finance minister said he would make a formal statement in parliament on Monday.

Muhith and other senior government figures including the Prime Minister have always rejected the charge and even defiantly spoken of finding an alternative source of funding.

Muhith still hopes to get WB fund for Padma Bridge

Mon, 07/05/2012 – 1:33am

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith is still hopeful that the Padma Bridge would be constructed with funding from the World Bank (WB) and other international lenders.

However he said it would take time until June this year to resolve the complications created due to World Bank’s decision to suspend funding for the project alleging corruption.

Muhith earlier announced that the work of the Padma Bridge project would start in November this year.

Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia over the project last month.

But on Sunday, the finance minister in an interview with bdnews24.com reiterated his hope on his return from Manila, capital of the Philippines, after attending the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Muhith said he had meetings with the ADB president and the Japanese finance minister.

“In both the meetings, I explained our position. I told them that there was no corruption in the Padma Bridge project. The World Bank’s allegations are imaginary,” said Muhith.

ADB was supposed to provide $ 610 million and Japan $ 140 million for the $ 2.9 billion Padma Bridge project. But the highest $ 1.2 billion was pledged by WB for the 6.15-km-long bridge, Bangladesh’s biggest infrastructure project.

“They offered to take initiative to resolve the issue. I am hopeful that it would be resolved this time and would be positive for us. But I don’t think any decision would come before June,” Muhith said.

On a question what would happen to the negotiation with Malaysia while he was pursuing the case with the WB, Muhith said, “Right now, we are negotiating with everyone… We will continue to talk to them… We will not stop any of the negotiations.”

“I said earlier that we have only signed MoU with Malaysia, nothing else. If we get any better option we will take that,” the finance minister added.

Bangladeshi experts said that the country would have to pay only 1.0 per cent interest if the finance comes from international lenders like WB and there would be a grace period of 10 years.

On the other hand, if the bridge is constructed with funding from Malaysia the interest rate would be over 6.0 per cent and the repayment period would start from the first year of construction.

Muhith travelled to Manila Wednesday to attend the ADB meeting held between May 3 and 5. The minister returned Saturday night.

The finance minister said, “Although ADB’s annual meeting is a forum to discuss policy matters, I raised the issue of Padma Bridge and briefed the top ADB officials about the situation.”

Muhith said he explained them the importance of the project and that Bangladesh wanted to start it as early as possible. “But the imaginary corruption allegation by the World Bank is holding us back,” he added.

An investigation by Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission into the WB allegation did not find any evidence of anomalies in pre-qualification bidding in the project.

However, WB said they would wait for the result of investigation being run by Canada before taking a decision. WB suspended a unit of a Canadian company for alleged corruption related to this project.

On a question whether ADB and Japan would finance the project if WB decided to withdraw from funding, Muhith said, “The negotiation is yet to reach that stage. They all want to fund the project and want to take a combined decision.”

No corruption in Padma Bridge project, claims Muhith

Fri, 14/10/2011 – 12:09am | by priyodesk

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Thursday claimed that there had been no corruption in the estimated $ 2.97 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project so far.

“Tender bids for the main construction are yet to be floated … only the works for land acquisition and rehabilitation have been done and those done in a very transparent manner. So, there is no scope for corruption,” he told reporters at the secretariat.

Muhith said the allegations made by the World Bank are based on the lending agency’s assumption.

The Finance Minister, however, alleged that the Jamuna Bridge project (Bangabandhu Bridge) witnessed massive corruption in acquiring land and rehabilitation works.

Asked about the World Bank allegations, Muhith said the government was looking into the matter. “The Anti Corruption Commission will also probe it.”

“These are very subtle issues what strategies the government will work out and do….there’ll be a statement from the government after finalization of these issues,” he added.

Asked whether there is any involvement of the Communication Minister or his family enterprise in the alleged corruption, Muhith declined to make any comment. “I’ve earlier said the details will be there in the statement to be issued by the government.”

Expressing his hope that the World Bank fund would still be available for the project, Muhith said, “Padma Bridge financing would not be possible from domestic resources and their (WB) assistance would be needed.”

Uncertainty looms over the prospect of the country’s dream project as the lead donor World Bank has recently suspended its committed financing of US$ 1.2 billion following the allegation of corruption in its tender process.

Earlier, on Monday, Muhith said the World Bank has temporarily halted its credit to Bangladesh for the Padma Bridge Project.

The global lending agency had pledged $1.2 billion for the 6km-bridge over the Padma River.

Apart from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have promised to provide $ 615 million, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) $ 400 million and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) $ 140 million for the Padma Bridge project.

Decision on probe into Padma Bridge bidding allegation soon : Muhith

Mon, 10/10/2011 – 9:37am

Finance Minister AMA Muhith said Sunday that the government was yet to decide whether it should investigate into the allegations of corruption in the bidding process of the Padma Bridge.

“The World Bank (WB) has asked us to investigate into the alleged irregularities in Padma Bridge bidding,” Muhith told reporters after a meeting held at the Cabinet Division.

“We will decide soon whether we should go for investigation or not,” he added.

Sources said, Muhith was scheduled to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Sunday evening at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss the Padma Bridge issue in totality and decide the next course of action of the government, particularly on launching probe into corruption allegation.

Meanwhile, a top official in the finance ministry said the WB has recently asked the government to take necessary actions relating to corruption allegations about in the project’s tendering process to get the pledged fund from the Bank.

The Padma Bridge project will need $2.9 billion. The WB Board approved $1.2 billion and committed to provide an extra $300 million later. Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Japan are other financers of the Padma Bridge project.

Earlier this year, the government sent a list of five pre-qualified bidders for consultancy job to the WB for its approval. Of the five, the lowest bidder was a Canadian company, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. The Canadian authorities are investigating corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc following a WB request.

Asked, Muhith said the government needs the pledged fund from the WB to implement the project.

“Of course, we need the fund from the WB as the pledged $1.2 billion is a large amount,” Muhith told the reporters.

He said, sometimes vested quarters make fake allegation.

Muhith awaits WB response for Padma Bridge

Wed, 02/11/2011 – 1:16am

Finance minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday said that the government could not take further step until World Bank’s reply is available on its suspension of $ 1.2 billion funding for the Padma Bridge Project on allegation of corruption.

“I’ve to get their response first. Unless we get their response, I can’t take any more step,” he told reporters at his office after holding a meeting with a five-member delegation from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and AusAid.

Replying to a volley of questions on different issues Muhith said action would be taken if any wrongdoing is found in the Padma Bridge project.

On transit or corridor facility to India, Muhith said that he is yet to receive the core committee report on transit.

“Whenever the report is available, it would be made public.”
The finance minister declined to make any comment when asked about the present state of the share market with declining of share price to the worries of small investors.
“Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking after the matter,” he said.

The DFID and AusAid delegation included Nicholas Freeland, Binayak Sen, Julia Louriero, Rabay Nizam and Yolande Wright.

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