B`desh asks WB to revise decision on Padma Bridge

Bangladesh on Sunday asked the World Bank to review its decision to scrap the Padma Bridge loan deal.

Dhaka: Bangladesh on Sunday asked the World Bank to review its decision to scrap the Padma Bridge loan deal and said that the lending agency`s claim of having "concrete evidence" of a graft plot is "entirely baseless".

"The World Bank claim of having concrete evidence (of graft) is entirely baseless...Unacceptable," Finance Minister AMA Muhith told a press briefing at his office this evening, a day after the multilateral lending agency scrapped the USD 1.2 billion credit deal on grounds of "corruption conspiracy".

"Their (WB) all statements are against possible corruption (and) no donor money was used for the project yet...The government spent Taka 1500 crore from own funds for land acquisition (for the project) amid extreme transparency and nobody complained of anomalies in that process," Muhith said.

He said the government would now await World Bank to revise its decision as the Bangladesh representative to the Washington-based lending agency initiated a discussion for an amicable settlement of the issue.

The World Bank alleged that Bangladesh did not cooperate in investigating the graft plot though it "provided evidence from two investigations to the government high ups and the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) in September 2011 and April 2012.

The ACC earlier today protested World Bank indications of "non-responsiveness" on its part regarding the alleged graft plot involving the Padma Bridge project calling it "unfair, illogical and unwarranted" as `we provided them (WB) all the information relating to the findings of (our) inquiry".

ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman told a press conference that the independent graft body only declined to keep two of the bank demands as those were beyond the legal purview of the graft body.

The World Bank earlier promised to provide USD 1.2 billion of the 2.93 billion project but kept suspended the disbursement process raising the graft allegation as the construction was initially planned to start by this year and be completed by the end of 2014 to connect southern Bangladesh with the capital.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia directly accused her archrival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of corrupt practices to have caused the debacle though the World Bank decision surprised most analysts and graft watchdogs.

"The government in its election manifesto had pledged to construct the bridge but its ministers opted for demanding commission before the work could start," she told a party rally.

The Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based global graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh called the World Bank decision "questionable and disappointing".