In the midst of a protracted row between the Bangladesh government and the World Bank over funding of the country’s biggest project, a Chinese company has come up with a concrete proposal to build the $2.9-billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
The company, based in Australia, has assured interest-free credit amounting to 70 per cent of the project cost. said a senior government source. Communications Minister Obaidul Quader has neither confirmed nor denied the development but the officials find in the offer a viable alternative to embark on the ambitious project after the World Bank (WB) cancelled its $ 1. 2 billion loan for the project recently on corruption charges.
WB’s withdrawal threw a challenge to the Sheikh Hasina government as the bridge, which would connect south western Bangladesh with the capital and Chittagong sea port, will have serious economic and political bearings. The 16 under-developed south-western districts are home to 60 million people.
The June 29 cancellation has made the Padma Bridge project uncertain, and the government is looking for alternatives including constructing the huge bridge with own funding.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has been critical of the World Bank decision, has obliquely alleged that Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus may have ‘influenced’ the Bank’s decision.
“I had heard that the World Bank will cancel its funding for a certain person, the Managing Director of a bank,” Ms. Hasina said at a meeting of the ruling Awami League’s Central Working Committee.
Ms. Hasina, whose government has initiated investigation over the World Bank allegation, has denied any corruption in the project since no money was released so far.
Bangladesh meanwhile decided to demand explanation from the World Bank on its process and procedures on cancelling the $ 1.2 billion loan for project, said Foreign Minister Dipu Moni . “We are aggrieved over the cancellation of the World Bank loan”, she said on Monday adding that the bank did not provide any credible evidence to substantiate corruption allegations.