Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Wednesday Bangladesh will construct the much-talked-about Padma Bridge with its own fund, if necessary, reports UNB.
“We’ll go for it with our own fund, if needed,” she informed parliament amid table thumping by MPs.
Hasina said she already had a meeting with the Bangladesh Bank governor, the Economic Relations Division and Finance Secretary Tuesday regarding funding of the project.
“Our economy isn’t in that much bad shape. I asked them how much money it (Padma Bridge) will require. I also enquired about using our own reserve for this purpose by taking one or two billion dollars a year,” she told the House in response to a supplementary question from independent lawmaker M Fazlul Azim (Noakhali-6) during the PM’s question-answer session.
The Prime Minister mentioned that the country which can move forward on its own strong feet during the global economic recession can also go for building a mega project like Padma Bridge with its own fund.
“At this time of recession many countries across the globe feel the pinch, but Bangladesh is moving towards the right direction,” she said adding, “Inshallah, we’ll start the construction work of the Padma Bridge.”
About Malaysian proposal for the constriction of Padma Bridge, she said, “Any proposal will have to be acceptable to the country and its people first.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Sunday the government would issue sovereign bonds worth US$750 million this fiscal to mobilise funds for construction of the Padma Bridge, reports BSS.
The government is also actively considering realisation of surcharge, issuance of internal bond, pruning some development programmes and maintaining austerity at all levels of the national life to pump in funds for the bridge, she said in her valedictory speech on the concluding day of this year’s budget session in the Jatiya Sangsad.
The Prime Minister assured the countrymen of launching the construction of the much-waited bridge this year and sought support of the countrymen and expatriate nationals in this regard.
Criticising the World Bank for unilateral suspension of the credit agreement for the bridge, the Prime Minister said, “I have received many phone calls from fellow citizens at home and abroad. I have seen a national spirit in them which has made me inspired to go ahead with the project at our own source”.
“We have already calculated how much money we will need yearly for the bridge. And, with the help of the countrymen, we will begin the construction this year,” she said.
“Bangladesh economy is now much stronger to offset the worldwide recession. We have declared development budget of Tk 550 billion for the next fiscal from which we will keep a provision for the bridge,” she said adding that “for this we have to follow some austerity measures and make sacrifice”.
The Prime Minister said she had already talked to different ministries to slash some of their development projects and divert the saved fund for the Padma Bridge. By this time if any foreign country or company shows interest to provide support to the project, then we will certainly consider it giving the highest priority to national interest.”
Sheikh Hasina again outright rejected the World Bank allegation of corruption in selection of the consultant for Padma Bridge Project, saying the WB’s delay in taking the decision to suspend the fund caused immense financial loss for the country.
She said the government spent about Tk 15 billion from its own sources for land acquisition and rehabilitation of the affected persons, which was closely monitored by lenders including the World Bank.
“The task was accomplished with the highest transparency and accountability and no question they (WB) could raise about any corruption at that time. So, how the World Bank raises the allegation of corruption now whereas they did not disburse any single penny for the project,” she said.
The Prime Minister said, ” I had requested the World Bank to float tender afresh if they found any irregularities or corruption. But, they adopted a dillydallying practice and refrained from taking any quick action in this regard”.
“The World Bank not only dillydallied on the project but also asked other co-financers not to release their fund,” she added.
“As a nation we cannot accept this disgraceful decision of the WB with which we came to an agreement for Padma Bridge as they voluntarily showed interests to finance the project,” she said.
“In the past the World Bank prescribed us not to give subsidies to agriculture, power and energy sector. But, defying the WB recommendation we continued subsidies to those sectors in our own economic interests,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, “Whenever we have received any allegation of corruption in any project, we have sent those to the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) for necessary action”.
At that time the Bank gave no document or paper on the alleged corruption in the Padma Bridge Project.
“Even though as the World Bank was insisting, we have changed the concerned minister, the secretary and the Project Director without any proof of corruption against them,” she said adding the World Bank came up with many prescriptions which were destructive for the country’s economy.
“Bangladesh has achieved the hard-earned independence after massive movement and struggle. So, we want to reach the fruits of independence to the people and ensure socioeconomic development of the people,” she said.
She said the country witnessed stunning successes in the fields of agriculture, education, health, power, economy as well as Digital Bangladesh.
The country, she said, has maintained over six percent growth in the last three and a half years despite the global economic recession.
“The annual development programme (ADP) achieved 93/94 percent success last fiscal year,” she said.
The country would have experienced more successes if fuel price had not been increased globally and the Middle East crisis not created, she said.
The Prime Minister said the government ensured food security of the people by increasing food production and expanded the social safety net. “There is a food stock of 14 lakh tonnes in the country,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the income of the middle class people and low income group went up substantially, while salary and allowances of the government staff and garment workers had been raised.
“The government has also constituted the 8th Wage Board for journalists and employees of the newspaper industry,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the government created employment for 75 lakh people, including 4.50 lakh in the public sector.
Highlighting various steps for development of the power sector, Sheikh Hasina said 1.30 crore people had been brought under the electricity network as 25 lakh new subscribers had emerged in the last three and a half years.
“The country produced more electricity in the last three years than the amount the present government pledged in its election manifesto,” she said.
The Prime Minister said Bangladesh received 1.13 billion dollars worth of foreign direct investment proposals in the last year, while local investment was increasing rapidly.
“The country earned 12 billion dollars in remittances in the last fiscal,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government was continuing its struggle to strengthen democracy and ensure people’s empowerment. “We have ensured voting and constitutional rights of the people, she said.
In this connection, she mentioned the holding of 5,202 elections in the last three years which were staged in a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere. Not a single question was raised from any quarter about the elections, she said.
The Prime Minister said Bangladesh was once recognised as a country of Bangla Bhai, militancy and terrorism. But the present government has been able to free the country from that stigma by curbing these social menaces with an iron hand.
She said her government ensured good governance and fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of the people by strengthening the Anti-Corruption Commission, Election Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and setting up the Information Commission.
“We have been working relentlessly to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 keeping our election manifestoes,” she said.
Mentioning Bangladesh’s tremendous success in foreign policy, Sheikh Hasina said the country’s image had been brightened in the outside world due to this success.
The Prime Minister underscored the need for making the country self-reliant instead of dependence on others. “We want to stand to our own feet in all sectors,” she said.