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  • probirbidhan 22:21 on August 27, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , Syed Abul Hossain   

    Wahid-uddin Mahmud expects World Bank will fund Padma Bridge 

    The Daily Star August 27, 2012

    Eminent economist Dr Wahid-uddin Mahmud has called upon the World Bank to reconsider the funding of the Padma bridge project. Following is the full text of his article on this issue:

    The international donor agencies have often been confronted with the question of how to do aid in a corruption-ridden environment such as exists in Bangladesh.

    While there are genuine concerns for safeguarding the use of scarce concessional funds from wastage due to corruption, the donors’ approaches in dealing with this problem have hardly been consistent across countries or over the years.

    The World Bank’s volume of assistance to Bangladesh, for example, has gone through troughs and highs, which have much to do with the shifts in the Bank’s strategy of how to deal with the country’s governance problems. Thus, at one time towards the end-1990s, the Bank’s aid pipeline to the country nearly dried up because of the Bank’s increasing disengagement from a large number of sectors including infrastructure and energy, where progress in policy reforms towards improved governance had been lacking. But later on, the Bank shifted its stance in favour of working from within critical sectors rather than disengaging from them and waiting for reforms to occur. Most recently, the decision to cancel the proposed funding of the Padma Bridge, unless reversed, will signal yet another shift towards hardening of its stance in dealing with alleged corruption.

    There are about 80 low-income countries that are eligible to receive assistance from the IDA, which is the World Bank’s window for concessional loans. The determine the allocations of IDA loans among the eligible countries, the Bank uses a numerical country rating system based on its Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA). Overtime, the assessment criteria have shifted from a focus largely on macroeconomic performance to include more and more governance-related indicators; as a result the governance factor has now become the predominant determinant of country allocations.

    The IDA fund allocations according to CPIA have been criticised by experts for the excessive weight placed on governance that puts countries like Bangladesh at a disadvantage. On top of it, Bangladesh has not been able to even fully access its IDA allocations as determined by its CPIA rating because of the problems related to project implementation. The challenge for the Bank and the government lies in finding aid modalities that can enable the country to fully utilise the allocations, while also trying to improve the country’s CPIA rating. The proposed funding of the Padma bridge project provides an opportunity for meeting such a challenge, for which the responsibility lies on both sides.

    The government needs to recognise that, so far as our global image is concerned, perception of corruption is not our strong point (while steady economic growth and progress in many social development indicators are). In this age of intense global competition, making it to the top of any list, be it the Transparency International’s corruption ranking, is not an easy task; it must have required an excellent team work among many government agencies to accomplish such a rare feat. The Padma bridge affair in fact provides us an opportunity to reflect up on how we package ourselves in front of the global community and engage in global economic diplomacy. Here is a chance to improve our image by making every effort to come out clean. A denial mode will not help.

    We may be able to construct the bridge using our own resources, but there is the larger issue of further possible damage to our global reputation. In order to achieve the middle-income status, we shall need to raise billions of dollar worth of resources from both domestic and foreign sources to invest in infrastructure building. Both India and China access huge amounts of concessional IDA loans on top of other loans from the World Bank for investment in infrastructure projects. Vietnam currently receives about 2 billion dollar worth of IDA loans annually which is more than double the amount Bangladesh receives despite the fact that it is a middle-income country and its population size is almost half of that of Bangladesh.

    On the part of the donor agencies, including the World Bank, they should not be guided by perceptions only, but by facts and evidence. According to an evaluation exercise reported in the World Bank’s Bangladesh Country Assistance Strategy 2006 2009, the Bank’s project portfolio performance in Bangladesh was in fact found to be better than the average of South Asia (and of all countries receiving IDA-only loans from the Bank) in respect of the percent of projects at risk or of completed projects with satisfactory outcomes. Admittedly, there are serious governance-related constraints in project implementation in Bangladesh. Yet, the countries aid-worthiness is considered to be high in terms of the potential contribution of aid in removing poverty and achieving economic and social development. While Bangladesh should learn to be more self-reliant, the international community faces the challenge of helping Bangladesh to achieve its development goals. It is in this light that the World Bank should reconsider the funding of the Padma bridge project.

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  • probirbidhan 22:46 on August 8, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , Syed Abul Hossain   

    All banks must open Padma Bridge donation accounts in all branches 

    Dhaka, Aug 8 (bdnews24.com)

    Bangladesh Bank has ordered all commercial banks to open accounts to collect donations as the government plans to finance the Padma bridge with own resources.

    The central bank issued a circular to chief executives of all commercial banks on Wednesday about opening the accounts and transfer of the money to the government treasury.

    Banks asked to open accounts for Padma donations

    পদ্মা সেতু নিয়ে অ্যাকাউন্ট খুলতে হবে সব শাখায়

     

    পদ্মা সেতু নিয়ে বিশ্বব্যাংকের মূল্যায়ন সঠিক নয়

    The circular asked all banks to open accounts on behalf of the government at all their scheduled branches for collecting donations from Bangladeshi residents and expatriates. They will maintain the accounts until further notice.

    Money raised in local and foreign currencies with the scheduled banks will be deposited at the local office of Sonali Bank that will open two accounts – one for accepting contributions in local currency and the other in foreign currencies.

    The banks are to open foreign currency accounts for expatriates in their foreign or approved branches.

    The branches will have to submit a monthly statement to the Finance Division on deposits and transfers of the funds to Sonali Bank’s local offices and a copy to the Executive Director of Bangladesh Bridge Authority.

    The central bank made it clear that no service charge can be taken for these accounts.

    Building Bangladesh’s biggest-ever infrastructure became uncertain after the World Bank cancelled its $ 1.2 billion loan agreement for the $ 2.9 billion project on the grounds of corruption.

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina then announced that if no-one else was on board, the bridge will be built with own financing.

    Bridging the river with own funds is one of the four financing options the government is pursuing as funds pledged by the other donors also became uncertain.

    Malaysia offered to erect the structure as the government locked in a war of words with the World Bank and on Apr 10 signed a memorandum of understanding in Kuala Lumpur

    Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said on Sunday, after meeting Malaysia’s Special Envoy S Samy Vellu, that Malaysia will submit a final proposal on the Padma bridge project in three weeks.

     
  • probirbidhan 01:12 on August 8, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    Risks of Malaysia fund proposal over Padma Bridge 

    The Daily Star August 8, 2012

    The finance division has pointed out five major risks in Malaysia’s initial proposal for the Padma bridge financing, and said they must be addressed if the proposal is to be accepted, according to a finance ministry official.

    Though the deal has been described as a government to government agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries shows that Malaysia will actually play the role of a facilitator, said the division after scrutinising the proposal.

    In April, Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu, special Malaysian envoy to India and South Asia on infrastructure, and Obaidul Quader, communications minister of Bangladesh, signed the agreement in Kuala Lumpur.

    The finance minister recently sent the draft MoU to the finance division for review. The division sent it back to the minister after analysing it, said a finance ministry official on condition of anonymity.

    The finance division said it would take at least two years to construct the Padma bridge, but according to the MoU the deal will remain effective for nine months or a maximum of 12 months.

    It means Malaysia will only play the role of a facilitator as there will be no scope for Kuala Lumpur to stay in the project till its completion, observed the division.

    Another major concern about the MoU is that it does not contain direct or indirect commitment or indications of providing any type of grant or concession loans, it said in its observation.

    The division said if it was not a government to government deal, it could have been processed under the government policy and strategy for Public Private Partnership.

    Besides, the MoU contains no guidelines on how the money invested in the bridge’s construction will be paid back, how the fees/toll/charge for using the infrastructure will be fixed and what the maximum tenure of the concession agreement will be, it said.

    Another concern arises from the provision for constructing the bridge under the build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) system that will allow the contractor to have the project’s ownership.

    The division said it would be more appropriate to construct the bridge under build-operate-transfer system instead of the BOOT system.

    A delegation led by Malaysian envoy Samy Vellu came to Dhaka on August 5 and submitted a proposal on the concession agreement to the communications minister. Later, Quader told reporters that Malaysia would submit the final proposal in three weeks.

    The Malaysian envoy also met Finance Minister AMA Muhith the same day, but the minister did not tell reporters anything about it.

    The finance division on Sunday issued a guideline for the bridge division to open two bank accounts with Sonali Bank for people to deposit money there as a way of raising funds for the Padma bridge project.

    The cabinet last month decided to open the two accounts — one for local and the other for foreign currency — to raise funds for the project.

    The bridge division will inform the Prime Minister’s Office and finance and planning ministries about the amounts deposited with accounts every three months.

    The planning ministry decided that 5 percent of the allocations in the development budget for all ministries and divisions except for agriculture and communications ministries, LGRD and power division would be diverted to the Padma bridge fund.

     
  • probirbidhan 04:16 on July 26, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , SNC, Syed Abul Hossain   

    Bangladesh requests World Bank to revive Padma Bridge fund 

    The Daily Star July 26, 2012

    The government yesterday sent a letter to the World Bank headquarters requesting the global lender to reconsider its cancellation of the Padma bridge loan.

    The government move comes following the resignation of Syed Abul Hossain, who was allegedly involved in corruption in the Padma bridge project.

    The Economic Relations Division (ERD) also sent letters yesterday to the two other co-financiers, ADB and Jica, requesting them to continue funding for the project, said an ERD official on condition of anonymity.

    The ERD informed the lending agencies about the government’s steps taken so far to fulfil the WB’s conditions for releasing the bridge fund, said the official.

    Meanwhile, to comply with the WB’s other condition, the Anti-Corruption Commission agreed to the WB proposal for forming a three-member panel to ensure a transparent and fair probe into the corruption allegations in the Padma bridge project.

    Talking to journalists at his office, ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said apart from forming the panel, the government was also willing to sign a memorandum of understanding with the WB.

    The WB on June 29 cancelled its $1.2 billion project funding that it had kept suspended since last September on allegations that ex-communications minister Abul Hossain and some public officials were involved in corruption in selecting the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin for the bridge’s supervisory work.

    The global lender called for certain government actions, including the removal of Abul and some officials, and also signing of a MoU with the ACC. But the government was reluctant to meet the two conditions.

    Following the WB’s loan cancellation, the government announced that it would implement the project with it own resources. However, the government gradually changed its position in the last few days and took steps to win back the WB’s confidence and fulfil its conditions.

    Muhith’s statement

    In a written statement, Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday held out the assurance that there would be no corruption in the Padma bridge project.

    “We want to assure you that there will not be any corruption in the Padma bridge project.” And the bridge’s initial work will start within this year, said Muhith.

    He said the work was hampered when the WB raised corruption allegations in the project.

    Following the WB’s allegations, the ACC initiated a probe into the allegations in August 2011 but did not find any corruption in the project. The ACC continued its probe as the WB reaffirmed its allegations, the minister said.

    “Right from the moment the WB cancelled the loan, we have been saying that the decision needs to be reconsidered. We are still hopeful that the WB will reconsider its decision and clear us of the humiliation.”

    Bangladesh had been lobbying with the other three development partners long before the global lender cancelled its loan agreement, he said.

    Of the three development partners, the Islamic Development Bank said it was eagerly waiting to fund the project, and also urged the government to remove all barriers to the bridge’s construction as soon as possible, Muhith said.

    Jica is keeping constant contact with the government, and the ADB is also in discussions with the government, he said.

    The government has already fulfilled two conditions set by the global lender on June 5.

    ACC chief’s briefing

    The ACC chairman yesterday told the press, “The World Bank had proposed forming a three-member panel with experts in international probe and prosecution to help the ACC in its investigation into the corruption allegations in the project.”

    The ACC finally agreed to this proposal, albeit after a month’s delay.

    “The area of cooperation between the ACC and the World Bank will include continuous sharing of information during the enquiry, investigation and prosecution phases if the probe establishes a prima facie case,” Rahman said.

    The ACC had not agreed to the proposal earlier, saying the law did not permit an agreement with such a panel.

    But the ACC chief yesterday said that through analysing the relevant laws, the ACC had found five areas where it could cooperate with the WB and fulfil the condition.

    Rahman said the ACC would give the panel full access to all files, materials, documents and other information gathered by the ACC’s enquiry team.

    It will also provide the background information and credentials of the members conducting the enquiry and a statement, if necessary, of any other conflict of interest.

    The ACC will allow the panel, upon its request, to interview individuals if they do not object to it, he said.

    According to the information and evidence that the ACC investigation team has gathered, so far no allegation of corruption has been established in the project. “If the corruption allegation is proved, it will be placed at the prosecution level,” he said.

    The ACC chief said the team would quiz Abul if necessary.

    “I don’t want to influence the investigation process. The probe team has already talked to many people and it will make decisions.”

     
  • probirbidhan 05:03 on July 25, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    Muhith hopeful over Padma Bridge Project as ‘Abul is down’ 

    The Daily Star July 25, 2012

    Now that Syed Abul Hossain has resigned, the government expects a positive development on the Padma bridge funding, as the chiefs of Jica and the World Bank meet in Washington today.

    Jica President Akihiko Tanaka is expected to request the new WB President Jim Yong Kim to review the Bank’s cancellation of its $1.2 billion loan as the lead financier in the Padma bridge project.

    The Bank scrapped the loan agreement on June 29 after a prolonged dialogue with the government failed, as the latter did not take steps, as suggested by the WB, on alleged corruption in the appointment of project supervisor.

    বিশ্বব্যাংকের শর্ত পূরণে ‘আবুল ইজ ডাউন’: মুহিত

    The Bank alleged that Abul was involved in corruption in selecting SNC Lavalin, a Canadian firm. Based on the Bank’s report, Canadian Mounted Police arrested two Lavalin executives in Toronto. They are now on trial. The first hearing of the case will take place in April next year.

    Yeafesh given addl charge of ICT

    According to sources, following the WB’s loan cancellation, the government approached Jica to persuade the Bank to review its decision.

    Finance Minister AMA Muhith talked to the Jica president over the phone on Monday. The Jica chief agreed to raise the Padma bridge issue with the global lender provided the government took some steps on a vital WB condition.

    The condition was that the government send on leave the public officials and former communications minister Abul, who were allegedly involved in corruption in the project.

    With Abul’s resignation as ICT minister, the government believes the stumbling block to reviving the loan agreement is gone. He was removed from the communications ministry and given the charge of ICT ministry on December 5 last year after the WB brought corruption allegations against him and suspended its loan.

    Another key official, former Bridges Division secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, who also faces corruption allegations over the project, went on leave yesterday.

    Mosharraf was made executive chairman of Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority after the WB brought corruption allegations over the project in September last year.

    “I will remain on leave until the Anti-Corruption Commission completes its investigation,” Mosharraf told The Daily Star, adding that he had decided to go on leave for the sake of a fair probe into the corruption allegations.

    Jica and the Asian Development Bank are the two partners of the financial arrangement that was led by the WB. The effectuation deadline of the loans from these two co-financiers will expire on July 30. This is why the government, earlier slow in settling issues with the WB, is now rushing things.

    If the Jica chief can convince the WB chief to review the Bank’s cancellation of the loan, Jica and ADB may get a scope for extending the deadline, said sources.

    If the WB does not change its decision, the deadline will expire and the government will have to negotiate once again with these agencies for a new loan agreement. But that will take time.

    The finance minister yesterday said he hoped the Bank’s fund would still be available for the $2.97 billion project.

    “A few government officials have already been asked to go on leave. Gazette notifications on this will be published in a day or two,” Muhith told reporters at his secretariat office yesterday.

    “Abul Hossain has stood down. This is an unusual step.”

    Muhith said the government had accepted all conditions of the global lender though there was “no evidence of corruption” in the project.

    “We will still try to accommodate the World Bank’s proposals so that the lending agency releases the funds for the bridge.”

    Meanwhile, Abul’s name has been dropped from the list of ministers on the website of the Prime Minister’s Office.

    The 6.15km bridge over the Padma river will connect the capital with 19 south-western districts.

     
  • probirbidhan 22:01 on July 11, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, , Syed Abul Hossain, ,   

    World Bank gave names of Hasina, Muhith, Syed Abul for corruption in Padma bridge 

    The Daily Star July 11, 2012

    BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday claimed that the World Bank had specifically accused three persons, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, of being involved in the Padma bridge corruption.

    “The names of the prime minister, Finance Minister AMA Muhith and former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain were mentioned in the World Bank letter,” he said, without mentioning how he had come to know this piece of information.

    PM again denies graft in Padma bridge

    WB might have been misled, says ACC chief

    PM outlines jobs to do

    Padma bridge with local fund ‘unrealistic’: Fakhrul

     

    Mirza Fakhrul, acting secretary general of the main opposition, was addressing a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

    He also said the international community was now pointing fingers at the premier and that the government should step down.

    The ruling Awami League men had already embezzled $35 million even before the start of the bridge construction, the opposition leader alleged.

    “The Awami League had promised that it would show zero tolerance to corruption but the fact is that corruption is now rife everywhere from the grassroots level to government high-ups.”

    Asking the government to make public the World Bank letter on the issue, he said it had been revealed in national and international media that persons close to the prime minister’s family were also involved with the Padma bridge corruption.

    Zia Adarsha Sangsad organised the programme, which was chaired by BNP Standing Committee Member Abdul Moyeen Khan.

    Meanwhile, Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque said his party did not want the Padma bridge project to be the “Election Bridge” — a pledge ahead of the parliamentary polls.

    While addressing a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club, he opposed the government decision to construct the bridge with local funds and said the surcharge should be renamed as “Abul charge.”

    Chawkbazar unit Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal organised the programme to demand the release of former lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu from imprisonment.

     
  • probirbidhan 05:28 on July 8, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, barrister Rafique-ul-Huq, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, , journalist ABM Musa, Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Nagorik Oikyo, , , Prof Pias Karim, Shahdeen Malik, Syed Abul Hossain, third force   

    Nagorik Oikya to be third party in Bangladesh politics, eyes 2014 polls 

    The Daily Star July 8, 2012

    Both Awami League and BNP have failed to fulfil people’s aspirations, and it is time to form a “third political party” with honest, patriotic and visionary people, Nagorik Oikya, a recently formed citizens’ organisation, said yesterday.

    Its leaders said they will travel across the country before Eid-ul-Fitr to find honest and capable candidates in all 300 constituencies for the next polls and drum up public support for the third political party.

    ৩০০ আসনে প্রার্থী দেওয়ার কথা ভাবছে নাগরিক ঐক্য

    আগামী জাতীয় সংসদ নির্বাচনে ৩০০ আসনেই প্রার্থী দেওয়ার কথা ভাবছে সদ্য আত্মপ্রকাশ করা সংগঠন ‘নাগরিক ঐক্য’।
    সংগঠনের আহ্বায়ক ও আওয়ামী লীগের সাবেক সাংগঠনিক সম্পাদক মাহমুদুর রহমান মান্না গতকাল শনিবার এক আলোচনা সভায় এ কথা বলেন। তাঁর মতে, আওয়ামী লীগ ও বিএনপির বাইরে জনগণের বিকল্প মঞ্চ হিসেবে তৃতীয় শক্তির উত্থান জরুরি।

    People want third force as alternative to AL, BNP

    Nagorik Oikya for emergence of ‘third force’

    নাগরিক ঐক্যের মঞ্চে তৃতীয় শক্তির ডাক

    “If we can have in the next parliament at least 50 to 60 honest and patriotic representatives under a third party platform, we will be able to put pressure on the two major parties to work for people’s welfare,” M Hafizuddin Khan, adviser to a caretaker government, said at a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

    “The next general election is still one-and-a-half years away, and people are eagerly waiting for an alternative political party to save them from the two parties’ misrule.”

    The former adviser said people cast votes either for BNP or AL because they don’t have any other alternative.

    Criticising both BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and AL President Sheikh Hasina, he said, “Though both the leaders talk about democracy, they do not practise it within their parties.”

    Asif Nazrul, professor at Dhaka University, said, “People are fed up with their corrupt and wrong leadership.”

    Two Nagorik Oikya advisers — jurist Rafique-ul-Huq and journalist ABM Musa — and its members Shahdeen Malik and Prof Pias Karim could not attend the meeting for personal reasons, said its member Tuhin Malik.

    The speakers said the prime minister’s remark that the Padma bridge would be constructed from own resources was “unrealistic.”

    They said the government should engage distinguished personalities, including Prof Rehman Sobhan, Prof Muhammad Yunus and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, to negotiate with the World Bank to reach an amicable settlement over the Padma bridge issue.

    They also demanded ex-communications minister Abul Hossain’s removal from the cabinet for his alleged involvement in Padma bridge project corruption.

    Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said, “If she [the prime minister] had any patriotism and feelings for people, she would not have made 16 crore people suffer to save the minister [Abul Hossain].”

    He said Nagorik Oikya leaders will go door to door to get people’s opinions and advice on the third party’s formation.

    “We will urge people to back our initiative to form a third political party if they want to get rid of the two major parties’ misrule and corruption,” said Manna, a former AL leader.

    Abu Sayeed Khan, another Nagorik Oikya leader, said people have been waiting for a change in politics since the restoration of democracy in 1991, but it has not happened yet.

    Former AL lawmaker SM Akram, another leader of the forum, said, “Awami League in its election manifesto pledged to bring about a positive change in the country but in reality, it is doing the opposite.”

    “We all should do something to save people from the two parties that have ruled the country by turns since 1991.”

    “If BNP comes to power, we will not be able to live in this country. The same thing will happen if Awami League returns to power in the next polls. That is why we need to create an alternative platform for people,” said Akram, also former president of Narayanganj district AL.

    জনগণকে সংগঠিত করবে নাগরিক ঐক্য

    নাগরিক ঐক্য’র পেছনে ওরা কারা?’ — ফজলুল বারী

     
    • Golam Rabbani 20:34 on January 27, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Very poor appeal. It is not even composed properly. How can you appeal to people in the middle. You have a long way to go.

  • probirbidhan 01:39 on July 6, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Bangladesh Insurance Association (BIA), BIA Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain, , , Syed Abul Hossain   

    Insurance Association keen to invest in Padma bridge construction 

    Thu, Jul 5th, 2012 5:57 pm BdST

    Dhaka, July 5 (bdnews24.com)

    The Bangladesh Insurance Association (BIA) has shown interest to invest around Tk 110 billion for the Padma bridge project following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement of building the country’s biggest infrastructure project with own fund, if necessary.

    BIA Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain expressed the interest at a press meet on Thursday at its Motijheel office.

    Private insurers offer investment

    Life insurers offer fund for Padma Bridge

    “The government has talked about building the bridge on its own. That’s why we want to invest in this project which is very important for the country’s economy. If the government agrees, we’ll invest,” he said.

    Kabir said that the life insurance companies have around Tk 160 billion funds. Of the amount, Tk 110 billion can easily be invested in the project, he added.

    Asked how they would invest the money, the BIA chief said, “The decision would be taken after discussion with the government.”

    The main financier the World Bank cancelled its $1.2-billion promised fund for the $2.9-billion Padma bridge project on Jun 29 alleging corruption. Asian Development Bank (ADB), which had pledged to contribute $610 million to the project, also hinted of following the same path.

    In this context, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told the Parliament that the government would build Padma bridge with its own fund, if necessary.

    She also said that she already had a meeting with the Bangladesh Bank Governor, the Economic Relations Division and Finance secretaries regarding funding of the project.

    BIA chief Kabir Hossain on Thursday said, “We want to invest. We want others to follow us particularly the expatriates to invest in this project.”

    According to statistics of BIA, 62 insurance companies are now operating in the country. Of them 18 are life insurance companies and the rest are general insurance companies.

    The investment in 18 life insurance companies is Tk 135.42 billion and it is 17.10 billion in general insurance companies.

     
  • probirbidhan 21:07 on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    Hasina bins Padma Bridge corruption allegations 

    Says govt to build Padma bridge with own fund, minister must quit if graft allegation is proved

    The Daily Star July 5, 2012

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday blasted the World Bank for cancelling its credit agreement with the government to fund the Padma bridge project and said her government must build the bridge even if it had to be with its own money.

    Speaking in parliament, she dismissed the World Bank’s corruption allegations in the project. She said, “Their [World Bank’s] blame is not acceptable at all.”

    WB scraps Padma loan

    WB may cancel funding soon

    Govt moves to axe WB deal

     

    Defending her government’s actions taken following the World Bank’s allegation, the premier said the moment the minister’s involvement in the said corruption would be proved, the minister would be fired.

    “All of a sudden the World Bank came up with allegations of corruption. But they could not provide any evidence. How could there be corruption when they had not released even a single penny for the project? “Therefore, I think it should be investigated and revealed who are behind it [cancellation of credit] and what are their objectives behind raising allegations of corruption,” the premier said in reply to a question from independent MP Fazlul Azim.

    She said she would speak more about it on June 8 during her winding up speech for the ongoing parliament session.

    On Monday, Finance Minister AMA Muhith also made a statement in parliament about the issue.

    The World Bank on Friday cancelled its funding for the project. It noted that it had “credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC-Lavalin executives and private individuals in connection with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project”.

    Speaking about alternative funding sources for the project, Hasina said that Malaysia had submitted a proposal relating to the construction of the bridge. Her government, she added, would seek proposals from others too.

    “Whatever the proposal is, it must be in line with the interest of our country and our people.”

    She said her government was not taking a loan from Malaysia. “They will construct the bridge with their money under BOOT [Built, Operate, Own and Transfer]. And they will take back their money within a certain period. We will not need to spend a single penny.”

    Hasina said the bridge could be built by other means as well, including Public Private Partnership.

    She said, “We may be poor. But we have been able to maintain a GDP growth amid the global economic recession. Our economic condition is not that bad. So it cannot be said that we will not be able to build the bridge on our own.”

    She said she had a meeting on Tuesday with the secretaries of the Economic Relations Division, finance ministry, bridge division and Bangladesh Bank governor to explore ways of building the bridge with the country’s own resources.

    “I would like to tell the people that we must build the Padma bridge. If needed, we will do so with our own money. We are able to meet $1 or $2 billion from our own reserves, which we sought from donor agencies. It is not a problem to spend that much money from our reserves.”

    On the World Bank’s cancelling the credit agreement, she told the House, “They can do it. It’s their will. And others may also do it and that’s their will.”

    Launching a blistering attack on the global lending body, Hasina said the World Bank had itself repeatedly tried and mounted pressure on her government to appoint a particular company as consultant. It had even sent three letters to the government to this effect. “But the company was found to be fake.”

    If one reads reports published in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine on alleged corruption in the World Bank, then one would understand where the corruption lies, she said.

    She said her government had already spent Tk 1,500 crore on acquiring land and on completion of rehabilitation work. The World Bank itself said that there was no corruption in spending the money for the work.

    “Usually, huge corruption takes place in this sort of work.”

    Hasina strongly defended her government’s actions following the bank’s allegations of corruption. She said the minister, secretary and project director concerned were removed for the sake of proper investigation.

    “Did any government do more than this? Did the past BNP government do so when allegations of corruption were raised in the power and communications sectors?”

    Hasina said the World Bank had cancelled the funding of seven projects in the communications sector due to corruption during the last BNP-led government.

    “We wanted a fair and transparent probe into the charges of corruption. If the minister’s involvement is proved, he has to be fired from the cabinet,” Hasina said.

    At one stage of her long statement, she said, “One thing I want to tell people, all MPs, ministers and government officials: my family includes myself, my younger sister, and our five children.

    “Apart from them, I have no one else as my family members. None of my family members takes commission. If anybody uses the name of my family members and wants to take undue advantage, I request all to either make a call or send a text instantly to my mobile phone. My numbers are 01711520000 and 01819260371 or email me at sheikhasina@hotmail.com. I will take action.”

     
  • probirbidhan 20:55 on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    Minister biggest reason for Padma Loan Negotiation Failure 

    Rezaul Karim Byron and Sharier Khan

    The Daily Star July 4, 2012

    The prime minister’s reluctance to remove the minister in charge is the biggest reason for the government’s failure in solving the Padma bridge project loan crisis with the World Bank.

    Sources said the government was more or less flexible about all other outstanding issues.

    According to a government letter to the bank on June 28 which was made public by the finance minister on July 1, WB high officials last October verbally asked Finance Minister AMA Muhith to remove the minister in charge and two officials to have the bank resume the project.

    “The honourable prime minister was reluctant to take actions against the high-level public officials without actionable evidence, but in the larger interest of the country and in order not to jeopardise her electoral commitment she used her routine cabinet reshuffle to adjust the portfolios to meet the Bank’s demands,” says the letter.

    However, the change of the said minister’s portfolio did not satisfy the WB. The issue came up again in early June when the two parties gave the issue a final try.

    In another letter on June 26, the finance ministry senior secretary noted, “In deference to your [WB] request for immediate action against the ‘officials’ for the duration of inquiry, the Government of Bangladesh agreed to take immediate actions against the officials named in your referral.

    “However, there appears to have been a genuine miscommunication. Your letter on June 5, 2012 referred clearly to ‘officials’ and not ‘ministers’. Our reading of the letter was confirmed by the advice we got from our colleagues in Washington DC and therefore agreed to the actions only against the ‘officials’. The actions against the ‘ministers’ would essentially await preliminary findings of the BACC (Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission).”

    This letter reconfirmed that the said minister would not be removed. This was reconfirmed by a third letter issued on June 29, the very day the WB cancelled the loan deal.

    But sources said although the letter talked about a misunderstanding over the definition of ‘officials’, the WB had categorically named the minister during talks since October last year.

    The WB had been very serious about the minister’s removal as it believed a person accused of corruption cannot and should not lead such a large project, the sources added.

    They said the WB integrity vice-presidency (INT) had started investigating the bridge project tender late in 2010, even before signing the loan contract in April 2011. As part of it, the INT interviewed all the bidders that had participated in the tender for project construction supervisory consultant in 2010.

    The investigation was triggered by an allegation sent to the WB in September-October of 2010 stating that certain men of the minister in charge had been approaching the bidders.

    This allegation landed in the INT’s report that was handed over to the government on September 21 last year. It states, “One confidential witness told INT that the company s/he worked for received a visit from an individual claiming to work for Sahco who said he was taking instructions directly from Minister Hossain. According to this confidential witness, the Sahco representative said that, in exchange for a specified percentage of the contract value, Minister Hossain would help the company in the PQ (pre-qualifying) process for the Padma Main Bridge Contract.”

    On June 29, the WB cancelled its $ 1.2 billion loan stating high-level corruption in the bridge project.

    The proposed 6.2-kilometre (3.8 miles) bridge over the Padma River would connect the capital with the country’s 16 south-western districts. The $2.9 billion project also had finances from the Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

    Finance Minister Muhith at a press conference on July 1 gave two points where the two parties fell apart. One point was that the government had found it insulting to sign a memorandum of understanding (Mou) over possible corruption and the other was that it had found unacceptable the WB proposed Terms of Reference (ToR) with a foreign panel with the ACC.

    However, in his speech in parliament the next day, the finance minister said the ACC had legal limitations for signing the ToR. That’s why the ACC through discussion with the WB had devised a way to meet the bank’s demands.

    “They [ACC] agreed to send a letter to the WB detailing the manner in which they would circulate information, consider/act on advice and ensure the involvement of the development partners (DPs). What they basically meant was that they would receive advice from the DPs and share all information with them,” Muhith told parliament.

    “Therefore, a panel can work on behalf of the development partners but the instructions must come from all the development partners or from their coordinator,” he added.

    This implies that the government actually agreed to the WB proposal over the ACC with slight modification.

    Sources said the final talks were held between WB officials and government high officials and an adviser to the prime minister and the ACC during June 23 to 26. For the first three days, they talked over removing concerned officials. During the dialogue, Bangladesh initially agreed to both the burning issues on ACC and removing the officials and minister.

    But on June 26, Bangladesh declined to remove the minister. The government also suddenly became hesitant about signing the TOR for foreign panel in the ACC. The talks ended unfruitful.

     
  • probirbidhan 20:05 on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , Mahfuz Anam, Padma Multi-purpose Bridge Project, , , , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    Public interest sacrificed to save Syed Abul Hossain over Padma Bridge scandal 

    Commentary: ‘Public interest sacrificed to protect one man’

    Mahfuz Anam, Editor & Publisher, The Daily Star

    July 5, 2012

    After sifting through the government’s letters to the World Bank (WB) concerning the Padma Bridge, made public the other day, we cannot but conclude that it was all done to save one man. The correspondence shows that all these negotiations, trips by our officials to the WB headquarters in Washington DC and meetings in Dhaka had helped us to cross all hurdles, but ultimately the deal fell through because the government would not agree to let one minister go “on leave”.

    Below we give an explanation as to how we reach such a conclusion.

    At the end of the long and tortuous negotiation process, it was the last three conditions of the WB upon which final agreement or non-agreement depended. These conditions, as mentioned in the WB’s press statement of June 29, 2012, were “(1) place all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave from Government employment until the investigation is completed; (ii) appoint a special inquiry team within the ACC to handle the investigation, and (iii) agree to provide full and adequate access to all investigative information to a panel appointed by the World Bank comprised of internationally recognised experts so that the panel can give guidance to the lenders on the progress, adequacy, and fairness of the investigation.”

    Let us examine the finance minister’s statement in parliament on Monday on these “conditions”. About the second, he termed it “redundant” (in paragraph 16 of the official English text). About the third, he claimed it was “in contradiction with the existing laws of the ACC ….” But later he said in the same paragraph that given the practice that prior approval of development partners is obtained in all matters of foreign aided projects “the ACC, giving due regard to this reality, worked out a mechanism in consultation with the expert group of the World bank. They agreed to send a letter to the WB detailing the manner in which they would circulate information, consider/act on advice and ensure the involvement of the development partners.”

    It is obvious from the above text that both parties, our government and the WB, were able to thrash out an agreement on the second and the third conditions. That leaves us with the first, in which the WB demands that suspected “public officials” be sent on leave till the investigation is over. This is where, as we understand, the negotiations broke down.

    A letter written by senior secretary Iqbal Mahmood is very revealing on this score.

    The letter addressed to Isabel Guerrero, WB vice president for South Asia, dated June 26, 2012, said, and we quote, “The government of Bangladesh is fully committed to taking actions against all officials and ministers on the recommendation of the BACC (Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission). In deference to your request for immediate action against the ‘officials’ for the duration of inquiry, the Government of Bangladesh agreed to take immediate actions against the ‘officials’ named in your referral.

    “However, there appears to have been a genuine miscommunication. Your letter of June 05, 2012 referred clearly to ‘officials’ and not ‘ministers’. Our reading of the letter was confirmed by the advice we got from our colleagues in Washington DC and therefore agreed to the actions only against the ‘officials’. The actions against the ‘ministers’ would essentially await preliminary findings of the BACC,” unquote.

    From the above we get the impression that all the while our government thought the WB was only talking about some government officials and not any minister, and that the government was taken aback now that the WB was also referring to a minister.

    Is this “miscommunication” argument genuine? It is interesting to note that the WB press statement dated June 30 (we have not been given copies of the WB letters to the government) uses the term “public officials”, whereas the government letters to the WB uses “officials”, which was also the term used by the finance minister in his speech to parliament.

    Did the WB use the term “public officials” in its letters? Only copies of their letters can prove it, which we do not possess at the moment. But if they did, then why did our government keep on using the term “officials” and not “public officials”? This one word now becomes important to understand if there were any genuine grounds for the “miscommunication”.

    The government’s position becomes quite untenable if we consider another letter by the same correspondent dated June 28. In it he says and we quote, “In early October, the Vice President South Asia (VPSA) and Vice President INT visited Dhaka and provided a verbal report (but no evidence) of “pay to play” in the consultancy prequalification. The VPSA suggested in a private conversation with the Honorable Finance Minister, that if the two officers and the ministers in charge were moved out, the Bank would resume the project,” unquote. (Emphasis ours).

    At this stage, only three individuals stood between our dream of a bridge over the Padma and the national humiliation that we are now suffering under. Out of these three, the government later agrees about the two. And then we are stuck with the third as we see below.

    In his last letter, dated June 29, Iqbal Mahmood writes, among other things, and we quote, “One officer mentioned in your referral will proceed on leave, while the other one has already been retired from Government Service. Action against the remaining person will take more time as explained in the previous letter,” unquote. (Emphasis ours)

    It is amply clear from the above letters by the government that it had agreed to all the latest three conditions of the WB except removing one minister. The argument that to remove the minister was to admit guilt is facile at best. There are numerous cases where a person accused of wrongdoing is temporarily removed to facilitate investigation, and reinstated with honour if exonerated. Wasn’t that what the WB was asking for? Recently, the German president, when accused of wrongdoing immediately resigned, saying he was doing it for the sake of proper investigation. Nobody took it for admission of guilt.

    Was it worth jeopardising the Padma bridge project that the government itself describes as one “on which hangs the prosperity and wellbeing of 60 million people of Bangladesh?” How could an elected government choose to protect one individual against the interest of 60 million people? Can a people’s government, in its wildest of errors, make such a choice? But ours did — consciously, deliberately and over a long period.

    The finance minister said that the WB statement has “humiliated the whole country.” Yes, it did, and we all feel humiliated and outraged. And we also feel that the government chose to insult us only to protect a minister.

    Throughout our piece and the accompanying reports, we have chosen to keep the minister unnamed. We do so to underscore the point that we hold the government far more guilty for protecting him against the interest of the whole nation than we hold the minister guilty for bringing us all to such disrepute.

    I have wondered about the minister in question. When he saw how a major national project was being jeopardised because of him, how the very government of which he was a part was moving towards a head-on clash with the WB, how his country would face international stigma of corruption and how the 60 million people would feel let down, why didn’t he have the simple decency to remove himself from the scene by resigning? Would it have meant admission of guilt? Isn’t the public holding him guilty now? If he had left with an appeal to the PM, whom he claims to respect, saying “I am resigning to spare the government any embarrassment, and in the greater interest of the country and the people and I demand an independent inquiry in my absence to prove my innocence”, his stature would have been heightened tenfold than it is now. Recently, he called a few media outlets and wrote to a few saying how honest, pious and innocent he was. All his piety did not give him the moral courage to spare his country, his party and especially his Prime Minister this shameful predicament.

     

     

     
  • probirbidhan 04:45 on July 4, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , Syed Abul Hossain, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim   

    Padma loan cancellation ‘right’, defends World Bank boss 

    Dhaka, Jul 3 (bdnews24.com)

    The newly appointed World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim has said the decision to cancel loan for the Bangladesh’s Padma bridge project was ‘appropriate’, according to international media reports.

    His comment came on first day on the job when Bangladesh government was preparing to hold discussion with the top management of the Bank to review its decision.

    Minister biggest reason

    Fakhrul wants ‘that minister’ punished

    IDB toes JICA line, continues fund support

    Talks with World Bank any time: Muhith

    Padma Project: Muhith hits out at World Ban

    ঋণ বাতিলের সিদ্ধান্ত সঠিক: জিম কিম

    পদ্মা সেতু প্রকল্পে আইডিবিও থাকছে

    ‘সেই মন্ত্রীর’ শাস্তি চান ফখরুল

    “I think it was appropriate,” The Globe and Mail quoted Kim to have said on Tuesday of the decision in his first meeting with journalists on Monday.

    Kim said that they were ‘very concerned’ about the well-being of the poorest people in Bangladesh.

    “But what I must stress is that, the bank’s position is that it does not tolerate corruption,” Kim was quoted by the Candian newspaper to have said.

    The World Bank cancelled its pledged $1.2-billion loan for Bangladesh’s $2.9 billion biggest infrastructure project saying the government had not cooperated in investigating “high-level corruption” in the project, an allegation Bangladesh refused.

    The Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith in a statement made in the parliament on Monday spoke about the government’s ‘flexible stance over several proposals by the World Bank in order to save the continuity of the project’.

    The global lender had issued a statement on Friday announcing its decision, just two days before Kim’s predecessor Robert Zoellick’s tenure in the bank expired.

    Muhith blamed Zoellick for taking the ‘illogical’ decision, which he said hampered the image of Bangladesh and believed that it would reconsider the decision.

    Muhith told Parliament that they would engage the top leadership of the Bank any time to break the deadlock surrounding global lending agency’s cancellation of promised funds.

    He had also said they were continuously negotiating with the influential members of the Bank.

    Co-financier the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also hinted to cancel funding for the of the Padma bridge project following WB’s footsteps.

     
  • probirbidhan 20:21 on July 1, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Syed Abul Hossain, World Bank allegation   

    World Bank’s evidence not credible: Muhith 

    WB’s ‘credible evidence’ not acceptable to us: Muhith

    Finance Minister AMA Muhith said on Sunday the ‘credible evidence’ that the World Bank has cited is not “acceptable to us because they (the Bank) would not disclose the names of the persons they have talked to”.

    Click here to read the government statement on Padma Bridge project.

    He termed the World Bank statement cancelling loan for Padma bridge project as unexpected and mysterious and said Bangladesh will wait for a review of the decision.

    “We believe that the World Bank should review its decision. Our executive director has been continuing talks in this regard. We will wait for their review,” the minister said in a press conference, a day after the WB cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma bridge project.

    The world monetary leader canalled the loan on Saturday saying it has proof of corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and individuals.

     
  • probirbidhan 00:32 on July 1, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Syed Abul Hossain,   

    World Bank dismisses Padma Bridge fund agreement 

    Washington, June 30 (bdnews24.com/Reuters)

    The World Bank has cancelled a $1.2 billion (764 million pounds) credit for Padma bridge project with immediate effect, saying it has “credible evidence” of a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials.

    “In light of the inadequate response by the government of Bangladesh, the World Bank has decided to cancel its $1.2 billion… credit in support of the Padma multipurpose bridge project, effective immediately,” the World Bank said in a statement on Friday.

    World Bank Statement on Padma Bridge

    পদ্মায় দুর্নীতি নিয়ে হচ্ছেটা কি?

    Corruption cripples development

    World Bank is ‘corrupt’: Forbes

    পদ্মা সেতুর ঋণচুক্তি বাতিল করেছে বিশ্বব্যাংক

    বিশ্বব্যাংকের নয়, জোয়েলিকের ব্যক্তিগত মন্তব্য: অর্থমন্ত্রীর বিবৃতি

    Padma bridge acid-test for govt: TIB

    The Washington-based development institution said it had provided evidence of corruption from two investigations into the Padma bridge project to Bangladesh’s prime minister and other senior government officials in an effort to press for action.

    The 4-mile (6-km) bridge is meant to link the country’s underdeveloped south with the capital Dhaka and the main port of Chittagong.

    The bank’s decision to withdraw from the project follows an “unsatisfactory” response from the government in dealing with the corruption allegations. The bank said it had sent a high-level team to Dhaka to fully explain its position and get a government response.

    “The World Bank cannot, should not, and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption,” the bank said. “We have both an ethical obligation and a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and (International Development Association) donor countries.”

    Earlier this week, two former executives from Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, which bid to supervise the contractor on the project, appeared in a Toronto court on Monday accused of bribing officials in Bangladesh.

    The executives Ramesh Shah and Mohammad Ismail were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in February following a 2011 raid on SNC-Lavalin offices. SNC-Lavalin is one of the world’s largest engineering companies.

    Canadian authorities launched an investigation last year into alleged corruption in the bridge bidding process after the World Bank brought the issue to their attention.

    There was no immediate response from Bangladesh’s government on the World Bank’s decision.

     
  • probirbidhan 04:10 on June 28, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: ERD, , , Syed Abul Hossain, WB conditions, WB Vice President Isabel Guerrer,   

    Govt against dropping Abul Hossain over Padma Bridge grafts scandal 

    The Daily Star June 28, 2012

    The government has rejected the World Bank’s compromise conditions that it should remove from office all persons related to the alleged corruption in the Padma Bridge project and that it should appoint an independent supervisor to monitor the Anti-Corruption Commission’s probe into the “graft”.

    With the rejection of the two out of five conditions that the bank had attached in a last ditch attempt to salvage the project, the future looks bleak for participation of multilateral donors in the bridge construction.

    No disclosure without proof:Muhith

    ACC chief won’t speak on visiting Canadian cops

    A high official of the Economic Relations Division yesterday communicated the government’s inability to go by the conditions to WB Vice President Isabel Guerrer.

    According to finance ministry officials, the government was agreeable to removing bureaucrats only against whom corruption allegation has surfaced. But it refused to take action against any minister.

    Prior to its decision, the government had a series of hectic meetings with a WB team from Washington on Monday and Tuesday. The government decision was also conveyed to other co-financiers, official sources told The Daily Star.

    Of the three other conditions which the government had no problem with, one is that a high-powered investigation team has to be formed to probe the allegations of corruption in the bridge project.

    Besides, co-financiers of the project will be actively involved in the procurement process for the bridge.

    And as a long term step, the government will take initiative to increase the capacity of the ACC.

    Early this month, Isabel Guerrer wrote a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, setting the five conditions.

    Following this, several letters were exchanged between the government and WB officials in the last couple of weeks.

    In mid-June, WB Country Director in Bangladesh Ellen Goldstein flew to Washington to discuss financing the bridge project at the bank’s head office. He returned to Dhaka along with the WB’s integrity vice president and some other officials on Monday to discuss the bank’s conditions with the government high-ups.

    The WB team met with the ACC chairman and other commissioners, an adviser to the prime minister, and finance ministry officials.

    Contacted, an official at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said since no graft allegation against any person has been proved, it is not possible to remove anybody.

    Another official said that at one stage of talks, the government agreed to remove officials against whom corruption allegation has been raised but it did not agree to do so as regards persons beyond that level.

    When asked, an ACC official said the ACC is an independent body, and the law does not allow any other organisation to monitor its investigation into alleged corruption.

    The WB team returned to Washington on Tuesday night, said an official of the bank.

    A WB official told The Daily Star that the bank’s financing of the Padma bridge project has now become uncertain.

    Meanwhile, the tenure of incumbent WB President Robert Zoellick expires on June 30.

    The WB submitted a report to the government in September last year on the corruption allegations.

    And it suspended its funding of the $2.9 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project. It had committed $1.2 billion.

    In April this year, the bank submitted a second report based on the findings of the Canadian government’s investigation into allegations of graft in appointment of a supervising consultant for the bridge.

    The WB and other co-financiers have extended loan effectiveness deadline several times and the last one will expire on July 27.

    Work on the bridge project has remained stalled since September last year.

     
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