WB to double assistance

$6b in 4 years including $1.2b for Padma bridge project
The World Bank will double its lending to Bangladesh to $6.1 billion over the next four years to help it tackle poverty and adapt to climate change.

The bank will ramp up investments in infrastructure, including power and gas, it said in a statement yesterday.

The assistance includes $1.2 billion for the construction of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, a top priority of the government to tap the economic potential of the country’s southwest region.

The new country assistance strategy builds on World Bank’s current portfolio of 25 active projects, with a net commitment of $3.2 billion.

“This new country assistance strategy proposes a doubling of financial support for Bangladesh relative to the (fiscal 2006-09) strategy,” said Ellen Goldstein, World Bank country director for Bangladesh.

“To deliver this higher volume of support most effectively, we will work with government to shift to larger, more strategic interventions that enhance selectivity and leverage priority reforms and investments,” Goldstein said.

The financial institution in its statement said the strategy will support Bangladesh’s ambitions by contributing to accelerated, sustainable and inclusive growth, underpinned by stronger governance at central and local levels.

Bangladesh has made large strides toward achieving millennium development goals for infant and child mortality, and has already met the goals for gender parity in education and primary school enrolment, it said.

The WB country director for Bangladesh said, “To deliver this higher volume of support most effectively, we will work with government to shift to larger, more strategic interventions that enhance selectivity and leverage priority reforms and investments. We will seek to scale up projects and programs that have demonstrated measurable results and a high degree of country ownership.”

She said they would also increase support for reforms to attract higher levels of private investment, working closely with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.

WB executive directors commended Bangladesh for a strong track record of over six percent economic growth in recent years, as well as sustained poverty reduction and human development over the past two decades.

They said Bangladesh would need to sustain growth of at least eight percent per annum to reduce the population share living in poverty from 40 percent to 15 percent and reach middle-income country status by 2021.

Shamsher G Singh, acting regional director for South Asia at IFC, said, “Jointly with the Bank, the IFC will continue to provide advisory support for reforms that would lead to a better business environment while exploring opportunities to expand its investment portfolio, including in infrastructure, energy, and agribusiness.”

“IFC will also provide assistance to establish special economic zones, improve access to finance (especially for micro-, small- and medium- enterprises) help private entrepreneurs address the effects of climate change, and support Government’s efforts to strengthen the public-private partnership (PPP) framework.”

The WB said the assistance strategy aligns its support to address the country’s vulnerability to climate change to ensure sustainable growth. It includes interventions in water resource management, agricultural adaptation, environmental protection and disaster preparedness to reduce environmental degradation and vulnerability to climate change and natural calamities.

The strategy will focus on improving delivery of social services to promote more inclusive growth.

The bank will support government’s commitment to decentralised service delivery and strengthening of domestic accountability at central and local levels to foster greater accountability.

With respect to the first priority of accelerating economic growth, Bangladesh will need a major increase in infrastructure investment and a more encouraging business environment.

Such improvements will also be critical to sustaining and accelerating growth and maintaining the pace of poverty reduction, it added.

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