The World Bank is still not satisfied with Bangladesh’s recent anti-corruption move over the Padma bridge issue despite resignation of a key minister.
On Wednesday, presidents of the WB and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) discussed the issue in Washington, but it still remained uncertain whether the global lender would review its cancellation of the bridge’s financing decision, sources in Dhaka said.
In its move, the government has launched an investigation into alleged graft in the Padma bridge project and had its ICT minister Syed Abul Hossain removed complying with WB conditions, but the lender yet thinks Bangladesh has not met all the conditions.
One of the four major conditions the WB had tagged with the bridge financing was to send on leave the senior officials including a minister, who had been accused of corruption in the project.
In line with the condition, the government has sent a former secretary on leave besides the resignation of Abul Hossain. However, it has not yet made any decision about sending another individual, who enjoys the status of a minister, on leave although the person was on WB’s suspect list.
As a result, the WB was not convinced with the government action and still had concern about Bangladesh’s intention to fight corruption, said sources.
Meanwhile on Thursday afternoon, Kei Toyama, senior Jica representative in Dhaka, met Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the secretariat and informed him of the WB’s latest position.
After the meeting, the finance minister told reporters, “There is nothing to give you [the media] now.” The Jica official too declined to comment.
World Bank Country Director Ellen Goldstein did not agree to make any comment on the issue at the moment, said an official of the bank in Dhaka.
The official also said, “We have not received any letter from the Bangladesh government saying that it wants the WB to review its decision.”
A finance ministry official said the government on Wednesday wrote to MN Prasad, an executive director representing Bangladesh at the WB, informing him of the recent development in the country.
In the letter, the government had expressed its intention to address any other WB concerns, if there were any, when the formal discussion between the two parties would commence, said the official.
Another finance ministry official said, “The government will go for its next move when MN Prasad gives the green signal.”
Following the resignation of Abul Hossain, the finance minister in a written statement on Wednesday called for review on the WB decision.
The WB on June 29 cancelled its $ 1.2 billion financing for the 6.2-kilometre bridge over the Padma River. The bridge will connect the capital with the country’s 16 south-western districts.
The tenure of loan effectuation of Jica and the Asian Development Bank will expire on July 31 this year.
Says BNP; other party leaders expected him to resign much earlier
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s remarks on Syed Abul Hossain’s resignation have drawn mixed reactions from the ruling Awami League and its allies.
The main opposition BNP, however, censured her severely, terming Abul a “corrupt and shameless person.”
Talking to journalists in London on Thursday, Hasina said Abul had shown courage by resigning even though the World Bank could not provide any “concrete evidence” of his involvement in corruption in Padma bridge project. “He has guts, he has patriotism … that’s why he could resign.”
Many leaders of AL and its allies expressed frustration over the prime minister’s remarks and felt embarrassed to talk about it.
“We are frustrated at the prime minister’s comments on a controversial man,” an AL leader told The Daily Star, preferring not to be named.
When the party chief backs Abul Hossain, the others have nothing to say, he added.
“Abul Hossain is not a patriot; he is a shameless person as he quit 10 months after the World Bank made the allegation of corruption against him,” BNP standing committee member Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told a seminar at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday.
Denouncing her remarks, Mosharraf said the prime minister has been batting for a corrupt person and she will not be able to glorify the image of the person who has tarnished the country’s image in the international arena.
“If anyone can become a patriot by indulging in corruption, then the definition of patriotism will have to be changed. The prime minister should have called him (Abul) shameless,” he mentioned.
Another BNP standing committee member Brig Gen (retd) ASM Hannan Shah said the premier should follow the example set by Abul Hossain to prove her patriotism, reports UNB.
“Sheikh Hasina is a corrupt prime minister and she also should set an example by quitting her post,” he told a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club.
Echoing Hasina’s views, AL acting general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said, “Syed Abul Hossain has stepped down for the sake of the country…. He loves the country.”
He was addressing a discussion of Swechhasebak League at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB).
He slammed BNP acting general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir for accusing the government in connection with the “corruption” in Padma bridge project.
“He [Alamgir] made pointless remarks by claiming that the resignation of Syed Abul Hossain from the cabinet proves the corruption charge,” said Hanif, also a special assistant to the prime minister.
REACTIONS OF OTHER LEADERS
Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convenor of a newly formed civil society platform Nagorik Oikko, questioned as to why the premier had to brand a person as patriot and why this certificate had to be given in London?
If the former communications minister had guts, as claimed by Hasina, he would have resigned when allegation of corruption was made against him, he said.
When Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj resigned as state minister for home and later as a lawmaker, the premier did not brand him as patriot or said he has guts, noted Manna, an ex-organising secretary of AL. “If anyone in the present government showed guts, it was Sohel Taj.”
He, however, said Abul Hossain has done good for the country by stepping down.
Workers Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon said Abul has resigned “for the sake of national interest.”
“We had urged him earlier to resign for maintaining transparency and it would have been better had he resigned earlier,” he mentioned.
Menon, however, did not comment on the prime minister’s remarks on Abul Hossain.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu said none but the people can only certify a political leader as patriot or not.
Had Abul Hossain resigned earlier, the government could be successful to get the loan from the World Bank, he told The Daily Star.
Chief of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Janata League Abdul Kader Siddique Bir Uttam said people did not expect such a comment from the prime minister.
People could not be pleased with this comment, he added. “Her comment shows lack of accountability in our democracy.”
Anwar Hossain Manju, chairman of Jatiya Party (Manju), said the prime minister could make such a comment if she was convinced that Abul Hossain resigned from his post despite the allegations made against him were “fictitious.”
Former Dhaka University vice-chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed questioned, if Abul Hossain is a patriot, then who is not?
The premier’s support for him will give a message to people that “the plunderer of public money” has legitimate right to be in a political party, added the former VC.
Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, incumbent VC of DU, said the prime minister has appreciated the resignation of a minister, which is an example to show respect for democracy.
The World Bank in September last year had suspended its $1.2 billion credit for the $2.97 Padma bridge project making allegation of corruption.
The lead financier cancelled the funding last month.