Monday, July 15, 2024

Padma work by May

Says Muhith; Mashiur says he is on leave, gets dropped from Ecnec, economic affairs committee too
The government plans to begin the construction of the much-talked about Padma bridge in April-May next year, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said yesterday.
“Now we should float the tender; it will be done next month,” he told reporters at his ministry in the capital.
The minister said the government would lay the foundation stone for the country’s biggest infrastructure project over the river Padma in April-May next year.
“This is our plan. We have already informed the World Bank and other lenders about the plan.”
Meanwhile, Mashiur Rahman, economic adviser to the prime minister, confirmed to a television channel in New York that he had gone on leave.
The former bureaucrat said the government disagreement with the WB on various issues had been settled.
“Its [WB’s] mission will visit Bangladesh and will examine ways to start the implementation of the project as early as possible.”
“It’s good news,” he told ATN Bangla.
His statement clears up the confusion on whether the government had sent the adviser on leave to meet the condition of the World Bank for reviving its $1.2 billion credit cancelled in June.
In another development, Mashiur has been dropped from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) and Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee.
The Cabinet Division on Sunday published separate gazette notifications on the move.
Earlier, he was excluded from the Cabinet Purchase Committee.
Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir replaced him in all the three bodies.
It is widely believed that Mashiur has been removed from the committees in compliance with WB conditions for its re-engagement in the Padma bridge project.
Yesterday, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), a co-financier of the Padma bridge project, extended its loan effectuation date to June 13 next year.
A finance ministry official said the Japanese organisation had extended the deadline for a longer period so that it did not need to do so frequently.
A team from the WB is supposed to arrive in Bangladesh this week to talk about the financing of the bridge project. But the finance minister could not say when the visit would take place.
Muhith also said there was nothing new in the procurement of the $3 billion project. “There is nothing new. The turnkey system has been included in the agreement like in the past.”
Under the turnkey approach, the lenders of any project do the necessary procurement for the scheme.
The minister, who played a key role in convincing the WB to revive the $1.2 billion fund, did not answer the question of whether his government would be able to do more work than laying the foundation stone for the project.
The 6.15-kilometre bridge, which will connect the capital city with 16 western and south-western districts, is one of the major election promises of the ruling Awami League. This government only has a little over a year to go before the next parliament election.
Muhith said the government would start fund mobilisation for the project from February next year. All the issues will be finalised after consultation with the lenders — the WB, Jica, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
The Manila-based ADB, the second largest financer in the project, yesterday expressed its happiness over the WB’s announcement to withdraw the loan cancellation.
“ADB is very pleased to hear that the WB has agreed, upon satisfactory implementation of agreed measures by the government, that it will engage anew in the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.”
“This is good news for the people of Bangladesh and indeed for the entire region. Padma is an iconic project, very much an operation we support for it has the potential to transform lives and unleash unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade and jobs,” ADB said in a statement.
The bank said it was very happy to see that Bangladesh had taken seriously governance matters, including allegations of corruption.
“ADB congratulates the government of Bangladesh for taking bold but also necessary actions to move the project forward. ADB now greatly looks forward to working closely with the authorities and other co-financiers to making this dream project a reality.”
ADB’s contribution to the project is $615 million. Jica and IDB will give $400 million and $140 million respectively.
The World Bank announced its getting back to the project through a statement on Thursday, saying, “The bank has agreed that, upon satisfactory implementation of the agreed measures by the government, and with the support of the bank’s governing bodies, it will engage anew in the Padma bridge project.”

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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