No new conditions for WB fund, Govt to finalise implementation strategy

The government has welcomed the World Bank decision to re-engage in the Padma Bridge financing along with ADB, Jica and IDB.

Economic Relations Division Secretary Iqbal Mahmud during a press briefing yesterday conveyed Dhaka's official reaction to the global lender's return in the project, also saying two missions of WB, ADB and Jica are due to arrive here shortly.

“The decision of the World Bank to come back as one of the co-financiers will bring forth promising results and a favourable outcome for the citizens of Bangladesh,” the ERD secretary said.

Mahmud said the representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency will arrive in Dhaka next week from Washington, Manila and Tokyo.

"They will hold talks with the government to outline strategies for investigating corruption allegations and implementation of the project."

Yesterday, the ERD secretary responding to repeated questions from journalists said there was no other condition that the government has to meet.

He said the Bank has not only decided to re-engage in its commitment of providing the $1.2 billion fund for the project but also at its September 20 board meeting has approved another $527 million for several other development projects in Bangladesh.

Asked whether there is any need for signing a new agreement, the secretary evaded a direct reply.

“It is very simple. It is sure they [financiers] are going to finance [the project]. The Padma bridge is an ongoing project and there is no question of their coming anew,” he said.

Responding to another question whether the work will start from where it stopped in September last year or new bidding will be required, Iqbal said, “Its work has not stopped.”

Finance minister AMA Muhith was scheduled to pass on the government's formal reaction but the decision was changed.

Iqbal Mahmud did the job at the hurriedly called press briefing at the auditorium of the National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday afternoon.

The secretary also praised the countries which played important roles in bringing back the WB to the project.

In a written statement, he said, “The Government of Bangladesh also acknowledge with profound gratitude the constructive role of the Governments of Japan, USA, India, UK and China in facilitating the financing of the Padma project by the World Bank.”

He added the finance minister has felicitated the World Bank president for the latter's bold and visionary decision to partner the country's largest infrastructure project.

“The Bank's decision to re-engage was the result of twelve month efforts to convince them of the government's commitment to combat allegations of corruption in cooperation with them but consistent with the laws of the country and to set up a streamlined process for a transparent, efficient

The official said an advance World Bank representative team will arrive in Dhaka to hold talks with corruption watchdog Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Washington-based lender re-engaged in the Padma bridge project nearly two and a half months after scrapping its pledged credit in the $2.9 billion project raising graft allegations.

The secretary said without elaborating that one team will come to work with the ACC and another to fix how the implementation can be done quickly.

Asked whether PM's Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman has gone on leave as per the WB condition, the secretary said, “Listen! If this condition was not fulfilled, I repeat, if this condition was not fulfilled, there was no question of the World Bank coming back to the project.”

Another question lobbed at the secretary was that whether the project implementation and probe into the graft allegation will go on parallel or remain separate, Iqbal Mahmud said, “This is a tricky question. It will be firmed up… Normally investigation and implementation remain delinked. We hope that the two will be delinked.”

Full Statement of ERD Secretary

News Source: 
The Independent