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PADMA BRIDGE PROJECT

Govt curtails allocation

Shakhawat Hossain

The government has withdrawn almost half of the fund allocated to the much-vaunted Padma Bridge project in the current fiscal year due to sluggish tender process, officials said.
From the current fiscal budget Tk 6,852 crore was allocated for the mega bridge project as part of the government’s decision to bear the project cost after the World Bank suspended credit programme citing ‘conspiracy of corruption’ in the donor-driven project.   
The international tender floated in last June for selecting a contractor is still at a primary stage which forced the government to withdraw around Tk 3,152 crore from the allotted fund.
Padma Bridge project director Shafiqul Islam told New Age on Monday that the government had revised the allocation to Tk 3,700 crore in the current fiscal year that will end in June.
Finance ministry officials said delay in tender process has benefited the new government led by the past ruling party. The fund withdrawn from the bridge project could be given to other ministries and divisions, they said.   
Ministry of finance is being hard pressed by other ministries and divisions for additional budgetary allocation despite resources shortage.
The revenue broad has already forecast Tk 13,000 crore revenue shortfalls due to disruption in business against the backdrop of prolonged political unrest. 
Bridge division, which is implementing the 6.1 kilometre bridge across the river Padma, is at the risk of sending back the entire allocation to the ministry of finance if they fail to select a contractor by June.
Shafiqul Islam said they were trying to give work order to the selected contractor by June to retain the revised allocation.
Many insiders in the communications ministry expressed doubt about
the deadline as the deadline for submission of bids documents was extended four times in last five months.
Three foreign firms-- Major Bridge Engineering Co. Ltd from China, Daelim – L & T JV from India and Samsung C&T Corp from South Korea-- finally submitted technical documents within the final deadline of January 9, 2014.
The technical proposals will be reviewed by the government in the next couple of months before asking for financial proposals.
Communications minister Obidul Quader said work order for the bridge construction was expected to be given in June.
Padma Bridge construction was a major election pledge of the Awami League-led government in its just concluded tenure.
Many critics had doubted the government’s ability of constructing the mega structure across the mighty Padma after the WB suspended $ 1.2 billion credit in 2012. Other donors-- Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency-- followed the WB making the project impossible for the government to implement. 




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