12:00 AM, January 30, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 30, 2013

Muhith sceptic

Doubts Padma bridge work within govt's tenure through alternative funding

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Staff Correspondent

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday doubted whether Padma bridge's construction would start during this government's tenure under an alternative arrangement if the World Bank doesn't finance the project.
“We want to start the project's work quickly.” And the financial arrangement led by the WB is the best option for the government, Muhith told reporters at the finance ministry.
If the government decides to implement the project with funds from China or any alternative source, it would not be possible to start the work during this government's tenure, he said.
The finance minister said China had given a proposal for funding the project and China Development Bank will be the major financier under that arrangement.
“It would be a new party. We have to negotiate terms with them and sign an agreement. It will be very time-consuming.”
He said even if the project is implemented at a minimised cost, as suggested by the prime minister, it will take time.
The minister said if the project's work starts under the financial arrangement led by the WB, tender for bridge's construction can be invited in 10 days.
“It is in our best interest to proceed with this arrangement.”
Muhith said he has sought an appointment from the WB president to hold talks with him in the USA next month to discuss the WB's financing of the project.
Muhith said he was yet to receive any response.
He said there are some differences of opinion between the WB and the government over the time frame for the project's implementation.
“We want to start the project's work the day the WB says yes.”
When reporters told him that many think the WB is unwilling to finance the project, Muhith refuted the view and said it is a wrong public perception.
Asked whether the other two co-financiers -- ADB and Jica --will finance the project if the WB pulls out of it, Muhith said he is trying to make sure that they stay in the project.
Meanwhile, the communications ministry inked a Tk 96 crore deal with a Bangladesh-India joint venture company to protect a Padma bridge construction yard from river erosion.
According to the agreement, the company will do work along a two-kilometre stretch of the riverbank to save Janjira yard and adjacent Majhirkandi ferry ghat from erosion.
The work will begin next month and end in six months.
Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the bridge's construction would have already started if the donors had provided the funds timely.
“We have almost completed the groundwork at a cost of Tk 1,500 crore. It would be great if the World Bank stays in the project,” he told journalists.
Quader said the government has given maximum effort to arrange funds for the project and the prime minister is monitoring everything in this project.
He reiterated that the bridge's construction would start within the present government's tenure.

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