The World Bank has welcomed the progress of the Padma Bridge construction, noting the economic benefits it will bring to Bangladesh.
In response to an e-mail from the Bangla Tribune, Qimiao Fan, the World Bank country director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, said: “As the largest and long-standing development partner of Bangladesh, we are happy that the bridge is being built.”
The global lender in 2012 pulled out of funding the bridge, Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project till date, raising allegations of corruption. Other lenders also followed suit. Bangladesh rejected the allegation and decided to go ahead with the project with domestic funding.
“Padma Bridge will be important to reduce poverty and inequality, especially in the south west region of Bangladesh,” Fan said in his response.
On September 30, the bridge began to take shape with the installation of its first span atop two pillars, no 37 and 38, at the Janjira point of Shariatpur.
The World Bank country director also said: “As you know, the World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed more than $26 billion in grants and interest-free credits to support the country’s growth and development efforts. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.”
Apart from connecting Bangladesh’s south-west to the northern and eastern regions, the bridge will also function as part of the proposed Asian Highway route.
The government says that the country’s GDP growth will see a 1.2 percent increase after the bridge becomes operational. It is expected to change the fates of the 21 districts in the south-west region, providing greater connectivity with the capital as well as the rest of the country.
The World Bank submitted its first investigation report to Finance Minister AMA Muhith on September 21, 2011. In February this year, a court in Canada cleared two former officials of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and a Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman of the charge of planning to bribe Bangladeshi officials involved with the bridge construction.
Padma Bridge has been a key part of the election manifesto for Awami League in both terms.
Centre for Policy Dialogue’s Research Director Khandaker Golam Moazzem told the Bangla Tribune that Padma Bridge would also build a new kind of capacity within Bangladesh to undertake large scale infrastructure projects on its own.
“So far we had done big projects under direct supervision of international agencies. This bridge we are doing with the help of international companies but under our own directives,” he said.
He remarked that this would pave the way for more large infrastructure projects in the country.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune