The Finance Minister has toldParliament that the government will engage the top leadership of the World Bankany time to break the recent impasse. He said it was determined to startconstruction of $ 2.9 billion Padma bridge in the current fiscal. The ministermade the remarks on Monday while delivering speech on Padma bridge after thebank on June 30 cancelled the loan agreement, which makes Bangladesh's biggestinfrastructure project yet uncertain.
"We are also continuouslynegotiating with the influential members of the World Bank," he said."Our Executive Director in the World Bank is holding talks with the (topofficials)."
In his nearly half-hour briefingin Parliament in presence of the Prime Minister about the ambitious project, hesaid, personally thought the World Bank did not follow proper rules to scrapthe agreement.
He blamed the outgoing presidentof Washington-based lending agency Robert Zoellick for taking the illogicaldecision, which hampered the image of Bangladesh and believed that it wouldreconsider its decision.
"I feel that otherdevelopment partners will perform their responsibilities after analysing the decisionand notice of the World Bank."
Asian Development Bank, JICA andIslamic Development Bank are the three cofinanciers of the project. TheMinister said, "The statement of the World Bank is not acceptable and itis not correct that the Bangladesh government did not take any effectivemeasures against corruption."
In a statement on Friday, theWorld Bank alleged that the government did not take any step despite beingprovided with 'credible evidence' to probe allegations of corruption in thebridge project.
"We made a combined effortto prevent any corruption in the project. So, the World Bank's claim is notacceptable and not correct."
According to Muhith, the Bank'sinterest in funding the bridge project waned after a Chinese constructioncompany, which the World Bank was favouring, was disqualified during theselection of pre-qualified contractors following forgery by its Bangladeshirepresentative, Ventura International.
"After that, the World Bankapproved selection of five pre-qualified contractors. But we think they starteddelaying the project...," Muhith said.
Later, in October last year, theFinance Minister suggested the global lender to separate the processes ofinvestigation and project implementation, as implementation of the project hadnever been halted ever since the World Bank came up with the demand forinvestigation into seven specific corruption instances in the project. But itcut no ice with the global lending agency.
He said changes in the projectleadership and the investigation Anti-Corruption Commission conducted into thecharges also failed to satisfy the Bank. The government continued to holdtalks, but the World Bank did not help out ACC with information.
"We did not intervene inthese matters as they fall within the purview of the Commission," saidMuhith.
A team of World Bankrepresentatives was invited in June for holding talks with the EconomicRelations Division and the ACC. Several letters were exchanged between the Bankand the government in that month over separating investigation from the processof project implementation, followed by visit of another World Bank team at theend of last month.
The team demanded that thegovernment reach consensus on three points including signing of a Memorandum ofUnderstanding with it and spelling out a Terms of Reference for involving aforeign advisor to ACC's activities. Muhith said the government accepted eventhose conditions with some minor practical changes to strike a deal with WorldBank, thus ruling out possibilities of corruption from the project.
"It is unexpected andmysterious why the World Bank has cancelled its contract and issued such adisgraceful note," he wondered.
According to him, the lendingagency has so far funded 251 projects worth $16.8 billion since Independence.Of the amount taken as loan, $14.5 billion are still unpaid.