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      Volume 11 |Issue 28| July 13, 2012 |


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In'credible' Evidence


Bangladesh has sustained an impressive track record for growth and development. In the past decade, the economy has grown at nearly 6 per cent per annum despite frequent natural disasters and the fuel, food price and global financial crises. In the past two decades, poverty was reduced by nearly one third whereas life expectancy, literacy and per capita food production have increased significantly.

In the past two decades, Bangladesh has experienced significant poverty reduction and profound social transformation with the widespread entry of girls into the education system and women into the labour force. Women consist of 80% of workforce of Bangladesh's garment industry. The country is on track to meet Millennium Development Goals for infant and child mortality and has already met the Millennium Development Goal for attaining gender parity in education. On the whole, Bangladesh has made laudable progress on many aspects of human development which has been a foundation for improvements in growth, empowerment and social mobility.

I have copied the above hooboohoo from the website of the World Bank 10 July.

And yet that very bank cancelled last month its commitment to co-fund the Padma Setu because it says it has “credible evidence” of corruption, but could not give details of the actual act of corruption, if any.

The WB is full of praise for Bangladesh referring to its Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project which through the Solar Home Systems installed about 500,000 systems (original target of 50,000) (Wow!) and by February 2011 more than 750,000 SHS were installed. (Wow wow!) In fact, electricity from solar panels has transformed lives in rural Bangladesh. Unquote. The wows are mine.

Even by Transparency International's Worldwide Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), wherein corruption is defined as "the misuse of public power for private benefit", and based on third-party expert assessments and opinion surveys through a variety of questions, ranging from "Do you trust the government?" to "Is corruption a big problem in your country?", Bangladesh (now ranked 120th among 182 countries) has improved from 1.2 in 2003 to 2.7 in 2011, although year-to-year comparison is untenable because of varying sources. (0 is worst and 10 best)

With a corruption index of 1.0 Somalia, one of the poorest countries in the world, stands at the bottom of TI's count, and yet, and laudably so, the World Bank is actively supporting the country's development.

To Afghanistan, ranked 180th (CPI 1.5), the World Bank will provide grants worth about $950 million per year during the period 2012-14.

The World Bank is helping Nigeria, ranked 143rd with a CPI improvement from 1.6 to 2.4 over the past decade, by approving as of March 2012, over 130 loans and credits of more than US$13.16 billion.

Pakistan, during July 2007-March 2011, were granted 35 World Bank operations totalling around US$5.0 billion, and yet its corruption ranking is 134th and the index hovering between 2.6 to 2.1.

It will emerge from any research that the World Bank is finding it quite comfortable to finance larger projects in more corrupt countries.

What is then the corruption index of the World Bank? According to Richard Behar in the July 16 issue of Forbes magazine, the World Bank is one of the world's most dysfunctional organisations, and its problems have gotten worse despite more than a decade of reform attempts to rid it of corruption.

Formed near the end of World War II to rebuild Japan and Europe, as the Bank ventured into poorer regions, the number of projects and amounts of money have escalated, so has the mischief, corruption and cover-ups, since no agency has the power to audit them, Forbes goes on.

Behar reports that the numerous managers and vice presidents he spoke with inside the bank say that corruption continues unabated. We have some idea from the World Bank's insistence on a Chinese firm outside the valid tender process for Padma Setu project. Tch! Tch!

A 2006 study of the World Bank's books unearthed real annual losses of $100 million to $500 million per year on its loans, and yet members have not cancelled their commitment to donate to the bank in spite of the rampant corrupt practices within it.

Last December more than $2 billion suddenly started appearing, disappearing and reappearing across the online budget accounts around the world, according to staffers responsible for those budgets. We have some idea, as our promised $1.2 billion appeared, disappeared, and not yet reappeared.

For a man who showed up maybe once a month to chair WB Board meetings held twice a week, the former president Zoellick may not even had known where the mighty Padma lies.

The people of Bangladesh needs the bridge and we have to go for it, yes, with our own funds, which is nothing new, as the present government has already invested Tk 1,500 crore on land acquisition and rehabilitation of the displaced for the Tk 23,000 crore multipurpose Setu on Padma.



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