Hasina says only road bridge on Padma, WB allegations not justified

The Daily Star September 13, 2012

Expressing her government’s firm determination to construct the Padma bridge, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday told parliament that if better funding was not available, the government would build only the road bridge, excluding rail facilities, with its own money in the interest of quick construction.

“We picked a design for a double-decker bridge with two levels — upper level for vehicles and the lower for railway. It is something new for Bangladesh,” said Hasina while replying to lawmakers’ queries.

Alongside, she said: “We have prepared another design to construct only a road-bridge for vehicles. It will require less amount of money.”

The premier said she had already talked to the Bridges Division and her government was prepared for both the options and was working to that end.

“If better funding is not available, we will build the road-bridge with our own money for quick construction,” she mentioned.

Asked when the construction of the main bridge would begin, she said a series of preparatory works, including acquisition of land, rehabilitation of affected people, and dredging and training of river Padma was underway.

“The work for construction of the main bridge will start, ‘Inshallah’. We must build the bridge by any means,” she said.

Hasina made the statement in the context of the cancellation of a loan agreement by the World Bank with her government for the funding of the Padma bridge over what it called a “conspiracy of corruption.”

However, the government is still negotiating with the WB for a revival of the loan agreement.

She said the WB had come forward willingly to provide funds for the construction of the Padma bridge. Citing the agreement, she said the level of funds promised by the WB was the highest in the global moneylender’s history.

The premier reiterated that the reasons the WB had cited for the cancellation of the loan agreement were “not justified and rational”.

The WB’s decision has delayed the construction of the bridge for the time being, she added.

She said the WB was yet to release money from the loan agreement.

However, the prime minister said, the Asian Development Bank had released $26.46 million under two technical loan agreements of $27.6 million signed with the Bangladesh government in 2007 and 2009. The money was spent on carrying out pre-feasibility study and preparing a design, she said.

The WB released $1.75 million under a loan agreement signed in 2008 for carrying out preparatory works, which has been spent already, Hasina added.

About the alternative funding proposal by the Malaysian government, she said her government was scrutinising the draft of the “concession agreement” submitted by the Malaysian government.

Besides, she said, the process of a construction of the bridge with the country’s own money was also going on. “We will agree to the proposal, which will be acceptable, economical, and may expedite the task.”

In response to lawmakers’ queries, the premier described her government’s various measures taken in the last three and half a years. In a scripted answer, she portrayed a rosy picture of the country’s economy, flow of remittance, agricultural production, education, health, social safety and women empowerment.

She also informed the House about her government’s plans for the improvement of the country’s communications network.