12:02 AM, February 26, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Padma Bridge fund faces roadblock

Padma Bridge fund faces roadblock

Communications ministry seeks to divert Tk 510cr to road projects
Rejaul Karim Byron

The funding for the much-publicised Padma Bridge project seems to have encountered another obstacle as the communications ministry seeks to divert Tk 510 crore from the project's allocation for fiscal 2013-14 to road schemes.
Some Tk 6,852 crore was allocated for the top priority project this fiscal year, but the finance division diverted Tk 4,252 crore from the fund to bankroll 20 percent dearness allowance for civil servants.
Last week, Communica-tions Minister Obaidul Quader in a letter to the planning minister called for transfer of Tk 510 crore from the project's current allocation of Tk 2,600 crore—to fund a host of projects.
Quader said the fund cut would not encumber the implementation of the Padma Bridge project, a communications ministry official said, asking not to be named.
But a planning ministry official said going by the pace of implementation of the Padma Bridge project, there is unlikely to be any room for cuts from this year's budget.
The construction of the Padma Bridge approach roads at Mawa and Jajira is progressing fast, while the contracts for main-bridge construction, river training and supervision consultancy are most likely to be awarded by June, which would then necessitate advance payment.
In preparation, the bridges division has already discussed the foreign currency allocation with Bangladesh Bank.
“So the entire revision allocation of Tk 2,600 crore may be needed,” he said, adding that the bridges division has spent Tk 260 crore for the Padma Bridge project in the seven months to January.
Moreover, the Padma Bridge project is amongst the government's six fast-track projects, so utmost attention has to be paid that its progress is not hampered for want of funding, the official added.
On January 31, the government requested the World Bank to withdraw its funding for the Padma Bridge project as it could delay the implementation. The government then decided to execute the project with its own resources.
Meanwhile, the planning ministry has proposed slashing the roads division's original allocation of Tk 2,473 crore by Tk 403 crore.
But the communications ministry instead demanded a further Tk 869 crore from the planning ministry for the ongoing and new projects.

Quader in the letter said there are 144 ongoing projects under the roads division, including the Dhaka-Chittagong four-lane project, Dhaka-Mymensingh four-lane project and Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development project.
“If funds are slashed from the roads division's allocation, these important national projects would be hampered,” he said in the letter.
The planning ministry official said the work on the revised budget for the current fiscal year is at the final stages, adding that various ministries have been putting pressure so that their allocations are not cut.


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