Padma Bridge decision: Bangladesh asks for review

Bangladesh has asked World Bank to review its decision to scrap the $ 1.2 bn Padma Bridge loan deal.

Written by Agencies | Dhaka | Published: July 2, 2012 1:50 pm

Bangladesh has asked the World Bank to review its decision to scrap the $ 1.2 billion Padma Bridge loan deal,saying the lending agency’s claim of having “concrete evidence” of a graft in the programme was “baseless”.

The six-km long Padma Bridge is a multipurpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River to be constructed in Bangladesh to link the country’s underdeveloped south with the capital Dhaka and the main port of Chittagong.

The World Bank was to provide $ 1.2 billion of the 2.93 billion project but the lending agency first suspended the payment and then scrapped it,citing Bangladesh’s failure to act to check massive corruption in the programme.

“The World Bank claim of having concrete evidence (of graft) is entirely baseless… unacceptable,” Finance Minister A M A Muhith told a press briefing at his office this evening,a day after the multilateral agency scrapped the credit deal on grounds of “corruption conspiracy”.

“Their (WB) all statements are against possible corruption (and) no donor money was used for the project yet… the government spent Taka 1500 crore from own funds for land acquisition (for the project) amid extreme transparency and nobody complained of anomalies in that process,” Muhith said.

He said a Bangladesh representative to the Washington- based lending agency has initiated a discussion for an amicable settlement on the issue and the government is now waiting for World Bank to review its decision.

The World Bank alleged that Bangladesh did not cooperate in investigating the graft plot though it “provided evidence from two investigations to the government high ups and the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) in September 2011 and April 2012”.

The ACC also protested World Bank indications of “non-responsiveness” on its part,calling it “unfair,illogical and unwarranted” as “we provided them (WB) all the information relating to the findings of (our) inquiry”.

ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman told a press conference yesterday that the independent graft body only declined to keep two of the bank demands as those were beyond the legal purview of the graft body.

The project was initially planned to start by this year and be completed by the end of 2014 to connect southern Bangladesh with the capital.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia directly accused her archrival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of corrupt practices that caused the debacle.

The World Bank decision,however,surprised most analysts and graft watchdogs. The Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based global graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh called the World Bank decision “questionable and disappointing”.

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