Lenders for Jamuna bridge toll hike to fund Padma Bridge

Lending agencies are pressing for raising the toll rates for the users of the Bangabandhu Bridge as a condition for lending $2.2 billion for the construction of a multipurpose bridge across the river Padma, communication ministry officials told New Age.

The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency, which agreed to lend more than 90 per cent of $2.4 billion, the estimated cost of building the bridge, put forward the condition in their lending proposals.

They also want the government to increase the manpower and improve capacity of the recently created Bangladesh Bridge Authority under the ministry of communications to ensure smooth lending to the country’s largest infrastructure project, they said.

Finance ministry officials said they were evaluating the lenders proposal, and their possible impact on inflation as the communication ministry sought their opinion on the issue.

They said that they expect increased tolls could push up the prices of essential commodities like rice, poultry birds, vegetables and fruits, as much of the supplies were transported from the northern districts using the Bangabandhu Bridge.

The communication minister wrote a letter to the finance minister last month seeking the ministry’s opinion about the precondition of raising the tools of Bangabandhu Bridge set by the lending agencies for funding the Padma Bridge.

Commissioned in 1998, the 4.1-kilometre Bangbanbhu Multipurpose Bridge, originally named Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge, facilitates non stop road and railway communication between the northern districts and the rest of Bangladesh, divided by the river Jamuna.

Bangladesh’s successive governments have tried for long to build a bridge across the river Padma to facilitate non stop road communication between the south and south-western regions and the rest of the country, divided by the mighty river.

A top priority project, the present government wants to start the construction of the bridge across Padma in January to complete it before its tenure ends in 2014.

The communications minister, Syed Abul Hossain, said that the lending agencies suggested for scaling up toll rates of Bangabandhu Bridge so that there would be no differences with the rates once the Padma Multipurpose Bridge was in place.

He told New Age that big differences in the toll-rates of the two bridges would create a problem for the communications ministry in future.

The ministry officials said that the toll-rates of Bangabandhu Bridge which remained unchanged for twelve years need a raise.

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