Muhith admits World Bank halts Padma Bridge funding; bins propaganda against Yunus
The World Bank has “temporarily halted” funding the Padma Bridge project and is waiting for the government’s response to its allegations of corruption in the tender process for the project. The government has not yet made it clear what the graft allegations are, triggering speculations on the issue.
“What the position of this halt will be depends on what response I will make to it,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told journalists at his office yesterday.
The minister was scheduled to hold a press briefing on the bridge project but cancelled it, saying he was not yet prepared for it.
“I am going to hold a (press) conference once I have cleared all the troubles and all the messages,” said Muhith.
He also said the government would come forth with a statement on the issue.
An AFP report quoted WB Country Director in Bangladesh Ellen Goldstein as saying yesterday, “We will not proceed until we are fully satisfied on the fraud and corruption front.”
The WB was to provide $1.2 billion for the $ 2.9 billion project.
The graft allegations were discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair yesterday.
But no official information was available on the details of the discussion.
The finance minister dismissed the propaganda by different quarters that Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus had a role behind the WB’s delaying the funding of the Padma Bridge.
Asked by journalists about the propaganda, Muhith said, “No, I have also said it earlier, I have no evidence.”
Muhith said that side by side with the Anti-Corruption Commission, the government would also probe the graft allegations.
The minister declined to say anything about the allegations for the moment.
When told that a minister’s business firm had allegedly sought commission from a pre-qualified bidder in the tender process for the Padma Bridge, Muhith refused to make any comment.
He, however, said the WB’s allegations were based on the assumption that corruption might have taken place in the tender process. Activities regarding construction of the bridge have remained suspended following the allegations.
“Our concern is to remove this difficulty,” he said.
The minister also said except for the Padma Bridge project, all other WB-financed projects are going on. The WB will also give budget support.
He went on, “We will surely get the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF).”
With The Daily Star input