12:00 AM, February 21, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 21, 2013

Funding Padma Bridge

New KL offer too costly

Malaysian Exim Bank to provide loan at 5pc interest

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Rejaul Karim Byron

The Exim Bank of Malaysia would finance the Padma bridge project, said Malaysia in a new proposal yesterday. However, the cost and interest rate on the credit are much higher than those of the World Bank-led financiers.
A visiting Malaysian team led by the country's prime minister's special envoy Dato Seri S Samy Vellu yesterday presented their proposal at a meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the latter's office.
Officials present in the meeting said the interest rate on Exim Bank's loan was around 5 percent. The estimated cost of the project components -- the main bridge construction, river training and yard construction -- are also much more than the earlier estimate made by the government.
The interest rate on the now-cancelled loan from WB-led financiers was below 1 percent.
Many works of the Padma bridge project like land acquisition, resettlement, and construction of approach roads are in progress. The estimated cost presented by the Malaysian team is exclusive of these costs.
The Malaysian team yesterday made component-wise presentation on the bridge construction while the Bangladesh side sought clarifications on various issues.
The delegation will today hold further meeting in this regard with Communications Minister Obaidul Quader. After detailed discussion, the proposal will be sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said official sources.
The finance minister yesterday held a series of meetings on the Malaysian proposal.
Meanwhile, before the talks with the Malaysian delegation a high level meeting was held where the communications minister, foreign minister, labour and overseas employment minister, prime minister's international affairs adviser, Bangladesh Bank governor and secretaries of concerned ministries were present.
Former vice chancellor of Brac University Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury and its incumbent VC Ainun Nishat were also present in the meeting. The duo was also present during the presentation of the Malaysian team.
Later, the finance minister held a closed door meeting with Prof Chowdhury and Prof Nishat.
Official sources said there were differences of opinion within the government regarding the Malaysian proposal.
At the minister-level meeting the Bridges Division voiced in favour of the Malaysian proposal while most of the other attendees favoured constructing the bridge with own resources.
Even Prof Chowdhury and Prof Nishat spoke in favour of the latter opinion.
However, neither the finance minister nor the communications minister told anything about what happened in the meeting.

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