Govt bows to WB pressure

The government has bowed to the World Bank pressure as it agreed to follow the preferences of the lender to buy goods and services for constructing the multi-billion dollar Padma Bridge, said officials of the Finance Ministry.

Bulk procurement of goods and services for the construction of estimated US$2.9 billion bridge over the river Padma will be carried out following the dictation of the WB, they said quoting agreed conditions.

The national competitive bidding will be applicable only for small purchase deals of the country’s biggest infrastructure project, said Economic Relations Division’s Additio-nal Secretary Arastoo Khan.

Even the lottery provision introduced by the present government in the existing national procurement guideline will not be applicable to the tenders to be done through competitive bidding, he added.

Such single national bidding will not go beyond US$5 million, said the Finance Ministry officials.

The agreed conditions, which were reached between two sides earlier this month, were a defeat for the present government. The WB was opposed to the existing national compe-titive bidding policy because of certain changes, which were brought about by the present government in 2009.

Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain said the agreed conditions would pave the way for signing of a deal on US$1.2 billion loans between the government and the lender WB. “We are expecting to sign the deal this month,” he said.

He pointed out that his government did not want to annoy the WB because of quick and timely impleme-ntation of the ‘dream project.’

The WB is the biggest multilateral lender of the 6.15km bridge project and the present government wants to complete it before end of its five-year tenure in Januay 2014. The Washington based lender has also assured the government of additional US$300 million loans besides the pledged US$1.2 billion.

The Communications Ministry was forced to go for re-tendering of the Padma Bridge project in September to appease the WB, which showed strong reservation about the first tender. The re-tender would, however, cause delay for at least six months to select a contractor and begin the construction works, said the Communications Ministry officials.

The government has also agreed to another WB suggestion to raise toll rates of the Banganbandhu Bridge by at least 40 percent and create a fund for emerg-ency maintenances.

The WB suggestions are very crucial as it has influences on other lenders like the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Develop-ment Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Out of estimated US$2.9 billion, lenders would provide loans worth US$2.5 billion for constriction of the bridge.

According to Japan International Cooperation Agency, the road-cum-rail bridge will contribute additional 1.2 percent to the gross domestic product annually spurring up economic activities in the less advanced southern districts.

Shakhawat Hossain

daily sun