Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday wondered for whose sake Bangladesh was ‘cheated’, referring to the World Bank cancelling the contract to provide loan for the Padma bridge project.
“How corruption takes place when (the World Bank) did not disburse any money? For whose sake they have cheated with the people of the country. I know they are very powerful,” said Hasina at the national conference of Awami League’s volunteer front Swechhashebok League on Wednesday.
The Washington-based global lending agency cancelled its contract to provide $1.2 billion loan to the $2.9 billion project saying it had credible evidence of corruption in the project.
Another major financier of the project, the Asian Development Bank also followed WB by going back on its promise of giving $610 million to the project.
Hasina had announced that the bridge would be built with own fund after the World Bank had decided to pull out of the project. The Cabinet took a decision to this end on Monday.
Referring to the public response following her announcement, Hasina, also the Awami League President, said, “It has been proved what a big mistake was committed by those who thought of smearing our face citing corruption in the Padma bridge project.”
“They thought they would separate us from the people. Instead, the people have stood by us,” she added.
She also commented that no injustice can be concealed from the people.
She was speaking as the chief guest at the Second Conference of Swechhashebok League at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
“We have to be bold to take the (Padma bridge project) work forward. Why should we take the blame for an offence we never committed?” she continued.
The Prime Minister reiterated her resolve to begin with construction of Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project with own fund but promised her administration will consider any proposal to finance the project.
“We will construct the Padma bridge anyway. We don’t want to beg from anyone. We are a nation who won their freedom through war. We are a proud nation. We will build the bridge with our own money,” she said.
Announcing once again that the Padma bridge project will be implemented during the tenure of the current government, she said, “The people have risen again against injustice.”
Hasina alleged that BNP-led four-party alliance stopped the initiative Awami League had initiated during its previous tenure to build the birdge.
“We resumed the initiative to build the bridge after coming to power. They (World Bank) wanted to give us loan. We signed contract. Then they stopped providing the loan under a pretext,” Hasina said.
She said the development of roads and highways and the power production continued even after the Bank had stopped providing loan to communications and power sectors due to ‘unbridled corruption’ during the tenure of BNP-led government.
Alluding to the sceptics who doubt that the bridge could be built with domestic resources, the Prime Minister said, “I have given the account. We have a foreign currency reserve of more than 10 billion dollars… It is not big deal for us to spend from there (Reserve).”
“There is no sector that did not see development during our time. We have worked more than we had committed,” she added.
Hasina urged leaders of its volunteer organisation to be devoted activists to ensure welfare of the people.
Presided over by Molla Md Abu Kawser, the conference was also addressed by Awami League’s Organising Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim.