Clarify your stand on Padma Bridge: Anu Muhammad tells Hasina, Muhith

Dhaka, Jul 21 (bdnews24.com)

Economist Anu Muhammad has urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Finance Minister A M A Muhith to sit and reach a consensus on the way to finance the Padma bridge project.

“The Prime Minister and other ruling party leaders are speaking against the World Bank. On the other hand, there have been efforts led by the Finance Minister to lobby with the World Bank,” Anu Muhammad told a discussion at Muktibhaban in Dhaka.

“The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister should sit. It is necessary to take a clear stand over the Padma bridge financing,” added the Member-Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Natural Resources, Power and Port.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) organised the discussion titled, “Padma Bridge: World Bank’s Roadmap and National Empowerment”.

After the global lender cancelled $1.2-billion fund it had pledged for the $2.9-billion Padma bridge project on Jun 29 raising allegations of corruption in the project, the Prime Minister outlined in parliament a strategy to execute the project with own funds.

Later, people from different professions and classes announced to help the government raise the fund. The government has opened two bank accounts to collect money for the purpose.

Amidst efforts to fund the project with the country’s own money, Finance Minister Muhith said he was hopeful that the World Bank would change its decision within this month.

He even requested the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to lobby with the World Bank for Bangladesh.

“The country should be freed from the clutches of the World Bank by honouring the Prime Minister’s remarks on funding the bridge that have inspired the people,” Anu Muhammad said on Saturday.

The economist also demanded formation of a commission to evaluate the on-going projects funded by the global lender.

Bangladesh had faced losses for a US company in a project in Magurchhara in 1997 and for a Canadian company in 2005, he said.

“We have to get at least Tk 450 billion as compensation for the losses. There should be some money left after we build two Padma bridges with the compensation. But the World Bank never spoke about the issue,” he added.

“You can find lots of chatters on corruption in papers of organisations like the World Bank, IMF or ADB. But it is important to see when they speak and when they remain silent,” Anu Muhammad said.

Economist M M Akash said one of the conditions set by the World Bank, but neglected by the government, was that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) team to investigate the allegations of graft in the project work under the global lenders’ team.

“ACC is a constitutionally independent organisation. If the government agrees with the condition, it will compromise with the national independence,” he added.

CPB President Manjurul Ahsan Khan, economist Binayak Sen and labour leader Shahidullah Chowdhury, among others, spoke at the discussion.

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