Govt-WB talks this week on Padma Bridge loan

FHM Humayan Kabir
The government will sit with the World Bank (WB) this week to finalise terms and conditions of US$1.20 billion loan for building the country’s largest bridge Padma, officials said Saturday.

Finance ministry officials said a team from the bank’s headquarters will arrive in Dhaka on January 6 and hold talks with government for setting the modalities of the credit, highest ever for a single project by the global lender.

The anti-poverty lender has recently assured Bangladesh of bankrolling $1.20 billion in phases for constructing the 6.15 kilometre long $2.90 billion bridge at southwestern Mawa-Janjira points over the Padma River.

The government has already completed negotiations with two co-financiers– the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), which committed $615 million and $140 million respectively for the proposed bridge.

Japan, the country’s largest bilateral donor, has also pledged to lend out $400 million for the bridge project.

“The bank’s team will discuss with Communications Ministry, Bridge Division, Economic Relations Division of the government as part of negotiations,” a senior ERD official told the FE.

He said after completion of the negotiations, the government is expected to sign US$1.2 billion loan deal with the WB in early February.

After completion of the loan negations on January 6-9, the bank will consider additional $300 million credit for the project, if it is required in the future, the bank’s Dhaka office spokesperson Mehrin A Mahbub said.

The World Bank will provide the concessional loan at a 0.75 per cent interest rate which will have 40 years maturity, with 10 years grace period, she said.

The government has

already invited pre-qualification bid from international contractors to build the proposed road-cum-rail bridge, which will reduce economic disparity between the impoverished southwestern region and the more developed central Dhaka.

The World Bank in an assessment report said the proposed bridge is expected to boost the Bangladesh’s gross domestic product growth (GDP) by 1.2 per cent and of the impoverished southwestern region by 2.3 per cent.

Till now Bangabandhu Multipurpose Bridge over the river Jamuna is the country’s largest bridge, with its length 4.80 kilometres. It was constructed in 1997 at a cost of nearly one billion dollars.

The Awami League government has made Padma Bridge one of its top priority projects and it wants to complete the construction by 2013, a year before its five-year tenure expires.

thefinancialexpress