The new government looks to complete by June the tender process and award contracts for three key components of the Padma bridge project -- construction of the bridge, river training and appointment of supervisory consultant.
“We hope the contracts for the three components will be awarded by June,” Padma Bridge Project Director Shafiqul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
The government move comes as its contract with the project's consultant, Maunsell Ltd AECOM, approaches expiry on June 24.
Because of a three-year delay, the cost of the project, to be implemented solely with government funding, would increase by around Tk 4,000 crore from the current estimate of Tk 20,507 crore, said officials of the Bridges Division that now aims to complete the long-awaited project by 2018, three years behind the original schedule.
In a letter to the finance ministry on January 28, the Bridges Division gave details about the present status of the project's three key components and asked the ministry to decide on how to pay the contractors in foreign currency.
The Division is now evaluating the proposals for the bridge's construction. It has also asked the bidders to submit proposals for river training by February 20 and those for the job of supervisory consultant by March 18.
The Padma bridge is among the six projects that are under direct supervision of the Fast Track Project Monitoring Committee headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday told The Daily Star that the government would implement the project with its own resources, and there would be no problem in funding the project.
The fund required for the bridge project is like a “chicken feed” to the government, said Muhith.
In support of his claim, the minister said the country's foreign currency reserve now stood at $18 billion, while the size of the national budget was over Tk 2 lakh crore.
The finance ministry would disburse money whenever required, he added.
The bridge project is the first in the country, which will require more than $2 billion in foreign currency. The government decided to fund the project on its own after the World Bank cancelled its 1.2 billion loan for the project in 2012 on grounds of a corruption conspiracy over the appointment of supervisory consultant.
The Bridges Division said three firms -- Samsung C&T Corporation of South Korea, China Major Bridge Engineering Co Ltd, and Daelim-Bam-VCI (a joint venture entity of South Korea) -- have submitted financial and technical proposals for constructing the main bridge. Evaluation of the proposals will be completed by May.
Five companies from the USA, France and India are vying for the job of river training.
The Division has also issued Request for Proposal (RFP) to five short-listed firms for appointing Construction Supervision Consultant.
It has written to the finance ministry to know how foreign currency would be paid to contractors, as the project is being financed by the state, not by any international development partner.
The Division recommended holding an inter-ministerial meeting to be chaired by the finance minister to determine the modality of payment in foreign currency.
According to the Division's current estimates, the total cost of the bridge project is Tk 20,507 crore or $2.9billion, of which $2.03 billion would be needed in foreign currency.
About 15 percent of the required foreign currency has to be paid in advance at the time of awarding a contract, said a Division official.
The project cost would increase due to the delay, and the revised costs could be determined after the contractors submit final proposals, added the official.
The government would spend on the project the $200 million it received as grant from India. Besides, it plans to raise $500million to $1billion by floating sovereign bonds on the international market by October, said a finance ministry official preferring anonymity.
Moreover, the government considers setting aside a part of the country's foreign currency reserve for the project. And the central bank has already given its primary consent to the plan.
The project's other works, including two approach roads, are going on, and around Tk 2,100 crore has been spent on those as of December 31 last year, added the official.