• JULY 01, 2022
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  • Padma Bridge emerges from sea despite initial hiccups

Padma Bridge emerges from sea despite initial hiccups

The Padma Bridge. COURTESY

  • Shamsul Huda
  • Published: 18 Jun 2022, 11:44 AM

Bangladesh has showed off its economic strength showing her teeth to the global lender in building the country's iconic structure, the Padma Bridge that has now completely emerged from the mighty river Padma and is awaiting gala inauguration by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on June 25.

It is no exaggeration to say that it was only Prime Minister's bold resolve that has made the landmark bridge -- The pride of Bangladesh-- come into being. Once it was thought nearly impossible to materialize such an overambitious and grandiose project with our domestic resources. But conventional wisdom has it that everything is impossible until someone makes it possible. In this case, our foresighted leadership did not let us down as country's largest ever project has become a resounding success catalyzing the sustained economic progress even amid the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic for little more than past two years.    

The colossal Padma Bridge has had a chequered past. It was left on the back foot from the get-go when the World Bank along with ADB, JICA stood aside from the project alleging a "high level corruption conspiracy" in 2012. In the beginning, uncertainty reigned over the future of the project soon after WB took its hands off it cancelling $1.2 billion credit it committed for it. But afterwards, the success story about the Padma Bridge is known to all of us as like a fairy-tale.

The World Bank had brought graft charges against the then two ministers and a number of high ranking government officials. But the global financial agency apparently failed to furnish smoking gun type of evidence to support its claim. Its evidence was just some wiretap recordings which were ruled inadmissible by the Canadian court when Judge Ian Nordheimer dismissed the case in 2017.   

Similarly, our Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had launched its own investigation and found World Bank's allegations unsubstantiated and untrue and absolved the two ministers and seven other government officials of 'hearsay like' charges. Subsequently, Dhaka District Judge Court acquitted all of them based on ACC findings. 

World Bank's claim of 'pre-emptive' graft conspiracy and malfeasance did not hold water as it lacked merit and veracity and subsequently proved false and fabricated. Our Prime Minister herself raised questions saying "if a single penny was not disbursed how did it come to assume that a corruption was about either in the making or about to take shape"? All this has smacked of some phantoms that really do not exist. 

All these baseless allegations have probably evoked unpleasant memories of the Prime Minister when she figuratively said that those who were opposed to the landmark project should be dropped from the Bridge. But her humorous utterance has been misconstrued by the opposition political party, BNP, and they are still trying to cash in on it misleading general people so as to fish in troubled waters.       

Coming to the point it is said that there was actually something fishy in the Padma Bridge project that came to light later on. It is allegedly reported that the world lender brought the charges of unsavory practices in the project when Bangladesh government refused to allow a disqualified company of its choice for its construction work. If it is true then there is serious culpability on the part of the World Bank.    

But it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was truly a conspiracy by a section of our people who were utterly disappointed as if the sky had fallen on them as soon as the landmark structure was conceived and they started to run from pillar to post to do away with it. It was like 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' type of task of self-destruction as they did not want to see something good happen to the country. And it has proven ad infinitum that in our alienated polities everything is possible just to undo opponents in order to gain political mileage.   

It was just one of the examples of conspiracies made against Bangladesh and in spite of all these conspiracies Bangladesh has kept building on economic successes and achievements with unprecedented political stability under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Hasina who did not swerve a hair's breadth from her decision of building the Padma Bridge for the benefits of the country's people, observed former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain in a recent statement. 

Syed Abul Hossain was perceived as the prime innocent victim of the World Bank 'conspiracy scam' that enormously weighed on him and finally culminated in his resignation as a cabinet member. He was said to have stepped down with the sense that the World Bank would reverse its decision and agree to finance the project keeping in mind the great benefits of the country's people. But nothing budged the global lender.  

Consequently, the unjustified and unfortunate hullabaloo over the project had cast a slur on Abul Hossain's carefully tended reputation and image as a decent politician and a social worker whose great contribution to the promotion of the country's education earned him many gongs and kudos including the prestigious 'Vidyasagar Puraskar' in 2019.  The die is cast and nothing can be done to ameliorate the damage done to the scapegoated personality. 

Finally, this is our country that has suffered the most due to World's Bank's bullheaded decision as the landmark bridge was delayed for nearly a decade and millions of people have been deprived of its benefits as the 6.15 kilometers bridge having both road and rail links is considered to be a new dawn in the development of Bangladesh's connectivity infrastructure with a projected annual contribution estimated between 1.2 and 2 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Products (GDP). 

The writer is Executive Editor of Bangladesh News

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