Introduction: The Padma Bridge is a long-cherished desire of nearly 160 million people of Bangladesh. The proposed Padma Bridge is the longest Bridge in Bangladesh but the World Bank has canceled its US$ 1.2 billion credit in support of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project leaving the project in uncertainty. The World Bank has informed the Bangladesh government about the corruption regarding the Padma Multi-purpose Bridge among the officials of the Bangladeshi government. The government of Bangladesh has denied the claim of the World Bank and declared to construct this bridge using its resources.
Why this credit cancellation: In an official statement on June 30, the World Bank said it has found ‘credible evidence’ corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials and private individuals in connection with the project. All evidences had been sent to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, as well as the Finance Minister and the Chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission of Bangladesh (ACC). The World Bank alleged that the government of Bangladesh did not take effective steps to probe the incident and finally scrapped its US$ 1.2 billion credit in support of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project. The Government of Bangladesh asked the Anti Corruption Commission to investigate the matter. After the investigation, the ACC declared that they did not find any evidence of corruption regarding the complain of the World Bank, The World Bank did not change its position and cancelled the loan for this project. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), a co-financier of the Padma Bridge project also withdrew its fund from the project. Another co-financier Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has not cancelled its funding to the project and the Islamic Development Bank (IDD) is still interested to fund in this project.
Reactions Towards the Loan-cancellation of this Project: The cancellation of loan over this mega project is a great shock for the Bangladeshi people. e government of Bangladesh termed the World Bank’s statement “disrespectrul, unexpected and mysterious”.
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) reacted to the World Bank’s decision to cancel the credit that the World Bank’s cancellation of the $ 1.2 billion. credit as part of the $ 2.9 billion Padma Bridge Project is deeply regrettable, embarrassing and disappointing. The Bangladesh government also alleged that the World Bank has taken such a decision to undermine Bangladesh.
Previous Credit for the Proposed Padma Bridge : The total cost of the mega project is around US$ 3.00 billion. Apart from the World Bank Funding of US$ 1.2 billion, the Asian Development Bank pledged a $ 615 million, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) $ 400 million and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) $ 140 million for the project. The rest of the credit will be provided by Abu Dhabi Development Group ($ 30 million) and the Bangladesh Government itself. Possibilities of Constructing Padma Bridge with our Own Resources : The proposed 6.2 kilometre (3.85 miles) Padma Multipurpose Bridge is a mega project for Bangladesh. The World Bank has thrown this project into uncertainty alleging the corruption of Bangladeshi officials. The government of Bangladesh has denied the claim of WB and given full importance to the construction of the Padma Bridge using its own resources. The government of Bangladesh estimated the cost of this project on a year-to-year basis such as Tk. 3,197 crore in the current fiscal year, Tk. 7,868 crore in 2013-2014, Tk. 7,786 crore in 2014-2015, and 3.785 crore in 2015- 2016 fiscal year to complete this mega project. The government also estimated that Tk. 24,000 crore can be used from the ADP of ground Tk. 55,000 crore in this fiscal year. The present government has laid out ambitious plans to mobilize resources, including levying surcharges and issuing sovereign bonds worth at least $ 750 million. The prime minister of Bangladesh said that she has already ordered different ministries to slash development projects and divert the money to fund the $2.9 billion Padma multipurpose bridge.
Importance of the Padma Bridge : The southern and south-western parts of the country are disadvantageous and deprived of mainstream or sustainable development. The development of a country is dependent on the developed communication system. The southern and south-western parts of our country are separated by the river Padma. The people of the southern parts of Bangladesh are deprived of different facilities. In most cases, they do not get the proper prices of their agricultural products for the lack of a good communication system. The Padma Bridge will transform the lives of nearly 30 million people of the south and southwestern region of Bangladesh if the Padma multipurpose bridge can be constructed within a few years. The importance of the Padma bridge is described below:
i. It will reduce poverty: Poverty is the main problem behind the development of our country. The Padma multipurpose bridge will contribute to the reduction of poverty to a great extent. The reduction of poverty will stand at 1.9 percent at the national level every year and 2 percent in the south-western region.
ii. It will link underdeveloped south-western districts with Dhaka: The south-western districts of Bangladesh are cut off from the capital Dhaka by the river Padma, The Padma Bridge will benefit 30 million people of this region and boost Bangladesh’s GDP by 1.2%, according to a forecast by the Asian Development Bank. i.
iii. It will create the scope for industrialization: For the lack of a good communication system, the industries could not be developed in the south-western districts. If the Padma Bridge can be constructed, the scope for industrialization will increase to a great extent. This is why the construction of the Padma Bridge is essential for the industrialization in the south-western districts of Bangladesh.
iv. It will strengthen our national economy: The Padma multipurpose bridge will create new hope for our national economy. Products can be transported easily at a lower cost from one region to another through this bridge. Besides. the total scenario of our national economy will be changed after the construction of this bridge.
v. Marginal farmers will be benefited: Basically, farmers are the core of our national economy But they do not get proper prices for their products. Moreover, a lengthy transportation system damages their agricultural products and they do not get proper prices. Marginal farmers of the southwestern region will get the proper prices of their products if the Padma bridge is constructed as soon as possible. vi. Our infrastructure will be developed: The Padrna bridge will be the largest infrastructural development of our country. It will help to provide gas and electricity at a lower cost in the southwestern districts of Bangladesh.
vii. It will connect the South-western region with other regions: The Padma Multipurpose Bridge will connect the underdeveloped south-western districts with other districts of our country. This bridge will reduce the distance from Dhaka city by nearly 100 kilometers.
viii. It will reduce the unemployment problem: This Padma bridge will help our country to reduce the unemployment problem. It will provide about 10.2% employment in the south-western region.
ix. It will save our land: Every year we lose many lands in the erosion of the river. The Padma Bridge will prevent the erosion of lands by the river Padma.
x. It will ensure the equal flow of capital: The Padma multipurpose bridge will ensure the equal flow of capital in the south-western districts. Rapid industrialization is possible in the south-western districts if the Padma bridge is constructed as soon as possible. Rapid industrialization will ensure the equal flow of money in the southwestern districts and help to reduce poverty in those regions.
Besides, the Padma multipurpose bridge will help to make international business more quickly especially through the Benapole land port of Jessore and this bridge will reduce the yearly expenditure of the government of Bangladesh.
Conclusion: The construction of the Padma Bridge was one of the prómises of the election manifesto of the present government, so the present government wants to construct the bridge using our national resources. But the government will have to confess the reality that our country is not in a position to construct this bridge with our assets. Though the cancellation of the World Bank’s loan has left this project in uncertainty, the government will have to discuss with other donors to get a loan for this mega project.