Malaysia offers to fund Padma Bridge after World Bank backs out

By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka, Gulf Times
After western donor agencies led by the World Bank suspended funding for the planned Padma Bridge in Bangladesh because of corruption allegations against a minister in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet, Malaysia yesterday came up with a proposal to finance the bridge.

Visiting special envoy of the Malaysian government Dato Seri S Samy Vellu made the proposal in a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Gonobhaban in Dhaka yesterday.

PM’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said the Malaysian government requested Bangladesh to provide a scheme design of the bridge and a construction plan.

Azad said the Malaysian proposed financing of the 6.15km Padma Bridge Project at easy terms.

The Malaysian proposal came against the backdrop of the World Bank’s refusal to continue its commitment to finance the project because of alleged corruption, a charge which the government rejected outright.

Padma Bridge is a priority project of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to connect Bangladesh’s southern region with the rest of the country, it is estimated that the bridge will add 2% to GDP.

State Minister for Housing and Public Works Advocate Abdul Mannan Khan, State Minister for Local Government and Cooperatives Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Aslamul Haque, MP attended the meeting.

The envoy was accompanied by Malaysian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Jamaluddin Sabeh.Principal Secretary Sheikh Wahiduzzaman, PMO Secretary Mollah Wahiduzzaman, Local Government secretary Abul Alam Shahid Khan and Public Works Secretary Khandakar Showkat Hossain were also present.
The Malaysian envoy discussed infrastructure development in Bangladesh including construction of housing for middle class and low income people and flyovers in the capital.

Various issues relating to mutual interests also came up for discussion.

The government has already signed deals of $1.2bn with the World Bank, $615mn with Asian Development Bank, $400mn with Japan International Cooperation Agency and $140mn with Islamic Development Bank to arrange funds for the $2.9bn Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, the country’s longest bridge.

The 6.15km bridge with 3.68km of land-based approach viaducts on both sides of the river will connect 19 south-western districts and the capital, enhancing their access to markets, improving services and accelerating growth.

The bridge will reduce distances to Dhaka by about 100km and halve travel times from most areas in the southwest. Moreover, the bridge will enhance regional trade by linking with the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian railway network systems, officials said.

It will also connect the two major seaports in Bangladesh.