The government will build the Padma bridge with its own funds and construction work will begin in the current fiscal year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced in parliament yesterday.
She said the mega project, estimated to cost around Tk 23,000 crore, would be completed within fiscal year 2015-16.
The prime minister was delivering her concluding speech in the budget session of the House, which was prorogued last evening.
She urged the global lenders not to put up “unnecessary obstacles” to Bangladesh's development efforts.
Hasina's announcement came nine days after the World Bank pulled out of the bridge project, citing a corruption conspiracy.
In her address, she sketched out how her government would arrange the money for the project from various sources.
Terming “unprecedented” the response she had received from people in the last few days in support of the government's plan for building the bridge with local resources, Hasina said she was overwhelmed by the way they had expressed their enthusiasm.
She added: “We will not bow to anybody. We can in no way accept the huge damage the World Bank has done to Bangladesh on lame excuses. No Bangalee can accept the allegation of corruption by the World Bank when not a single penny was released for the project.”
Criticising the WB for delaying her government's move to build the bridge, she said, “The construction cost has increased due to the delay. I will ask the finance minister to seek compensation from the World Bank.”
Hasina also accused the global lender of instigating other lending agencies, including the Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Jica, not to provide funds for the Padma bridge project.
HOW TO RAISE FUNDS
The premier said the government had lately estimated the construction cost of the bridge on a year-to-year basis.
According to the estimate, Tk 3,197 crore will be needed in the current fiscal year, Tk 7,868 crore in 2013-14, Tk 7,786 crore in 2014-15 and Tk 3,785 crore in 2015-16 to complete the project.
Citing the allocation of Tk 55,000 crore in the ADP for this fiscal year, Hasina said she had already discussed the matter with some ministries, and they had said they would not take their entire allocations in the current year's budget.
“It is possible to save Tk 24,000 crore from the ADP. For this, we will have to be economical and may have to cut some development work under different ministries. But again, construction of the Padma bridge is also development work and will generate employment for many,” she said.
The government would be able to begin the construction work soon, and will not waste any more time.
The prime minister said the government had earmarked Tk 1,500 crore for infrastructure development and Tk 3,000 crore in the public-private partnership fund. Besides, a certain amount of money had been allocated for the Padma bridge in the budget.
The government had also decided to issue sovereign bonds to collect $750 million.
Besides, her government might levy a surcharge as was done for the construction of the Jamuna bridge. “We will also welcome any foreign investment in this project,” she added.
Giving a breakdown of the Padma bridge costs, Hasina said Tk 15,000 crore would be spent for construction of the main portion of the bridge; Tk 7,200 crore for river training; Tk 1,281 crore for building Jajira approach road; and Tk 310 crore for Mawa approach road.
She said her government had already spent Tk 1, 500 crore on land acquisition and rehabilitation purposes.
In a blistering attack on the World Bank, she said the country's jute industries and railway sector had been destroyed through accepting the global lender's prescription. The no-subsidy recommendation for agriculture came from the same organisation.
“They want us to beg. They want us to continue as guinea pigs …. But we don't take alms; we take loan and return it with interest.”
Hasina also observed that being a partner of the lending agency, Bangladesh had the right to know if its account was audited regularly and if it had any balance sheet. The bank should also disclose what its officials did and how they spent money.
The prime minister said everything had been done openly in dealing with the WB regarding the Padma bridge project. “Our finance minister met all their requirements.”
Treasury bench MPs supported Hasina's speech by thumping their desks.
Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the prime minister disclosed her mobile phone numbers and e-mail address and asked people to inform her about any allegation of corruption.
Yesterday, she said she had received a huge response from home and abroad and most of the callers supported her stance on the WB issue.
She said many Bangladeshi expatriates had told her that they would work hard to send more remittance to help build the Padma bridge.
Hasina said even school students had phoned her and said they would contribute by saving from their tiffin money.
At this stage, the lawmakers announced they would donate a month's salary for the construction of the bridge.
Speaking for around an hour, the prime minister described her government's various development activities.
Earlier, Speaker Abdul Hamid proposed that the government might impose a 25-paisa tax per phone call to collect funds for the Padma bridge.