Muhith still hopeful of WB's Padma Bridge funding US will discuss the issue with global lender: Mozena
Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday said he was still optimistic about getting the $1.2 billion committed fund from the World Bank (WB) to construct the Padma multi-purpose bridge.
"I am still hopeful. I have never lost hope," Muhith told reporters responding to a query whether any hope is still left in getting the promised fund from the WB.
The finance minister was talking to reporters at his secretariat office after a meeting with the US Ambassador Dan W Mozena. Muhith said again that the government will be able to make a final decision on Padma Bridge by July.
"We are still negotiating with the WB," Muhith said.
Besides, a number of countries including the US, India, Japan and the United Kingdom also talked to the WB to settle the problems concerning the Padma Bridge Project financing, he added.
The finance minister said he would soon respond to a WB's letter on the entire issue to remove misunderstanding and help get the fund released.
Country's biggest infrastructural project ran into trouble when the WB suspended disbursement of its $1.2-billion loan to the government for the $2.9-billion project on graft allegations in bidding process in October last year.
Apart from the WB, Asian Development Bank (ADB) had pledged $610 million, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) $400 million and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) $140 million as loan for the $2.9-billion bridge project.
After the WB suspended the release of its committed fund for the project, the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia on February 21 last to construct the 6.15-kilometre-long bridge, following a formal proposal that Dhaka had received from Kuala Lumpur.
The US Ambassador said they talked about their shared aspirations about Padma Bridge and expressed the hope that a way could be found in enabling the lending organisations including the WB to work together to construct the most important bridge. Bangladesh cannot be a 'Bengal Tiger' if 25 per cent of its population living in its 19 southwestern districts remain cut off from the development process, he said.
"We have taken up the case with due importance and will continue to discuss it with the management of the World Bank," the US Ambassador said.
The Ambassador expressed the hope that the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) would be signed very soon.
"I discussed the issue with the foreign secretary and shared information I have from Washington," he said. "The issue is with the government. I hope for a timely response."
Bangladesh and the US are engaged in TICFA negotiations for the last two years and the only unresolved issue remains to be the one concerning labour standards.
Mozena said the US buyers are much concerned about the reputation as the image of Bangladesh was being tarnished over the issue of labour rights and safety in the garment factories of Bangladesh.
The US envoy expressed the fear that it would have negative impact on the Bangladesh export to the US market if the killer of Aminul Islam, a labour leader, is not arrested and brought to justice.
The Financial Express/Bangladesh/ 12th June 2012