Gas export: ADB denies pressuring Dhaka

DHAKA OCT. 31. The president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Tadao Chino, on Wednesday said Bangladesh would have to ensure "appropriate and commercial use" of its natural resources like gas but added that the country was not under any kind of pressure from any quarters.

Mr. Chino, who is here on a five-day tour of the country, told mediapersons, "Bangladesh itself has to decide what is the best appropriate commercial use.''

Later, at a seminar organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he categorically denied mounting pressure on the Government to export gas. ``We are not exerting any pressure on Bangladesh to export gas'', Mr. Chino said, dispelling widespread speculation that international organisations including the ADB, were putting "pressure'' on Bangladesh to export gas to India. After a lengthy meeting with Mr. Chino, the Finance and Planning Minister, Saifur Rahman, said the Government was not under pressure from any donor agencies regarding gas export. However, he said any decision regarding the utilisation of the gas reserves should be based on reality and its commercial aspect.

Earlier, Mr. Chino, who had a meeting with the Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, said the ADB would continue to assist Bangladesh in its fight against poverty. During his visit, the ADB chief will also meet key policy-makers. Over the years, Bangladesh has emerged as one of the largest borrowers of the ADB's concessional funds, with the amount rising from $33 millions in 1973 to $300 millions in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, after the end of the "long march" at Chittagong on Wednesday, leaders of the "National Committee to Protect National Oil, Gas and Port'' have warned that if the Government decided to export gas to India or allowed an American company to construct a private container port in Chittagong, they would launch a "quit government'' movement. The "long march" started from Dhaka on Oct. 24 and ended at Chittagong on Oct. 30. The 265-km march, organised mainly by leftist political parties and their intellectual sympathisers, attracted thousands of people who marched all the way to Chittagong, chanting slogans against exporting gas.

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