Talks restart as Abul goes
Fresh talks between the government and the World Bank, aimed at the withdrawal of the latter's suspension of the Padma bridge funding, have begun just days after Syed Abul Hossain was removed from the communications ministry.
The World Bank had suspended the funding over allegations of corruption against Abul.
As part of the fresh dialogue, WB's country director in Dhaka Ellen Goldstein held a meeting with the new Communications Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday afternoon.
This was Goldstein's first meeting with the new communications minister, who took office yesterday following Monday's cabinet reshuffle.
"I did have an introductory meeting with the new minister for communications. We did have some preliminary discussions, but there is nothing new to report right now," Goldstein told journalists after the meeting.
“It was an introductory meeting to begin exchanging views as part of the ongoing dialogue. The discussion will continue further after I return from my upcoming trip to my headquarters at Washington DC," she told The Daily Star.
Goldstein is flying to Washington tomorrow. There she will discuss with the bank's high officials the latest government move, among other things, a WB official in Dhaka told this correspondent on condition of anonymity.
The trip to Washington is part of the regular schedule, Goldstein said, adding, "When I get back, we hope we'll have further dialogue on the Padma bridge."
Shafiqul Islam, project director of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Khandaker Anwarul Islam, secretary of the Bridge Division and Abdul Wadud, chief engineer of the Bridge Division, were present at the meeting.
Khandaker Anwarul, quoting Goldstein, said all the four donors -- WB, ADB, IDB and Jica -- were working to resolve the current crisis over the funding.
After the meeting with the communications minister, Goldstein also had a one-to-one meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at Hotel Sonargaon where they both went to attend a programme of ADB.
In September, the WB temporarily suspended its $1.2 billion fund for the $2.9b project. In the same month the bank handed over a letter to Muhith raising allegations of corruption against Abul and his family firm Sahco in the bridge's tender process.
Government officials had earlier said the WB "unofficially signaled" to the government that it would not fund the project if Abul Hossain remained in the communications ministry.
Following the suspension, the date for WB's loan activation was extended till the end of January next year.
Finance ministry officials said yesterday the government was trying to solve the "complexity" over the funding by the deadline.
Also yesterday, Muhith at a programme at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre said he hoped that the "complication regarding the Padma bridge funding will be over soon".