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Govt lashes out at World Bank

Dhaka says funding pullout over graft is 'disgraceful', insisting project is on target

  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • July 2, 2012
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The government yesterday insisted a US$3 billion bridge connecting the impoverished southwest of the country would go ahead, accusing the World Bank of making a “disgraceful” decision in withdrawing funding for the project following corruption allegations.

Following a breakdown in talks between Dhaka and the World Bank that concluded on Friday with the organization confirming it would not back the project, Finance Minister AMA Muhith responded yesterday that it should review the “unexpected” decision.

The World Bank last year suspended a $1.2-billion loan to help finance the project pending an investigation into corruption linked to a number of government officials, some of whom have since been sacked.

The World Bank’s allegations lack credibility, the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Golam Rahman, fired back yesterday, accusing the financial body of failing to cooperate during investigations.

“The World Bank had pressed for some conditions that go against existing laws of the country,” said Rahman.

The bank in turn accused the government of an “inadequate response” to concerns the bidding process had lacked openness and that Bangladeshi officials allegedly paid bribes to appoint the Montreal-based engineering firm SNC- Lavalin as a consultant, which is itself the subject of a police investigation in Canada.

"The World Bank cannot, should not and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption," it said in a statement.

The dispute has already delayed a project which was supposed to get underway at the beginning of last year and was due to be opened in 2013.

Obaidul Quader, the communications minister who replaced Abu Hossain after he was sacked over the affair, insisted yesterday that the project remained on target.

“We are looking for alternative funding for the project from Malaysia and some other countries and hope we can get even cheaper loans to build the bridge,” he told reporters in Dhaka.

Malaysia on Thursday submitted a formal proposal to the Bangladesh government for the project, which would see a consortium of Malaysian companies complete construction.

The 6.15-km bridge – when completed – will offer a transport and economic lifeline to some 30 million people in the southwest of the country, cutting travel routes to Dhaka by nearly 100 kilometers and raising national gross domestic product by an estimated 1.2 percent, according to the World Bank.

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