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Tuesday, July 3, 2012
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WB ignored Dhaka's proposals to end row

Muhith tells parliament, again blames Zoellick for taking 'hasty, imprudent' decision on Padma bridge loan

Finance Minister AMA Muhith said in parliament yesterday he believed former World Bank president Robert Zoellick had never taken into cognisance any of Bangladesh's proposals to end the stalemate over the Padma bridge project

Click here to read statement of the finance minister on Padma bridge project

Bangladesh had continuously held discussions on the issue in Dhaka, Washington and other places between December last year and April this year, he said.

“I believe that the World Bank president never took any of our proposals into cognisance,” the finance minister told the Jatiya Sangsad in a written statement.

“Probably, in an attempt to settle the issue in haste during his term, the outgoing World Bank president Robert Zoellick took this imprudent decision which has shattered Bangladesh's image.

“In April, a government representative [prime minister's international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi] went to Washington to discuss the matter. He could not meet Zoellick because the World Bank president was preoccupied with other schedules. But he continued talks with other World Bank high-ups.”

After Muhith gave his statement, Speaker Abdul Hamid said he hoped the crisis over the Padma bridge funding would now be resolved.

"I want to state in clear terms that there has been no misuse, corruption or irregularities in the Padma bridge project," the finance minister affirmed, this time not reading from the written statement.

Terming the WB's decision improper, Muhith said in the written statement, “The World Bank cannot malign a country or dishonour its people on the basis of an unconfirmed or incomplete allegation.”

The WB cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the project on Saturday, saying it has proof of corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and individuals.

“I consider that the World Bank statement has humiliated the whole country and the allegation labelled against us is not well founded,” said Muhith.

The finance minister once again urged the bank to review its decision, and said, “I hope we will have talks with the bank's top leadership any moment.”

He was confident that the government would be able to start the project's work this fiscal year.

Muhith urged other financiers to take prudent decisions. “I also think other development partners will carry out their responsibilities in this project by analysing the World Bank's decision and statement.”

The minister told the House that in order to clarify the government's position before the nation he had released a set of letters that the government had sent to the WB. But he did not make available the WB's letters to the government for the sake of the ongoing probe and out of respect to the global lender.

The finance minister provided a detailed background of the project and sequence of events.

He said the bank's claim that the Bangladesh government did not act properly on corruption allegations was not correct. The government went beyond its routine procedures and was accommodative about all of the bank's recommendations, said Muhith.

“The World Bank wanted to sign a memorandum of understanding with us on corruption. I consider it highly disgraceful. Instead, I informed them that this should also apply to the understanding that we reach with the development partners through formal correspondence.”

Muhith said the bank informed the government on April 9 that the probe in Canada was at a final stage and that the Canadian authorities had arrested two SNC-Lavalin officials. One of the officials told them that “he, through some distinguished individuals [whose identity was not disclosed], offered to give commission to some influential Bangladeshis if their firm was selected for the job.”

The Canadian authorities confiscated the official's diary and found a list, said Muhith.

“I preferred not to make the list public as it would have ruined the reputation of those individuals. This list includes the names of politicians and bureaucrats as well as other individuals.

“Any writing in the diary would be credible evidence only when more proof is found in support of the writing. In my opinion, the whole matter is based on the possibility of corruption which the World Bank has called the conspiracy of corruption.”

“We wanted to blacklist SNC-Lavalin when such allegations were raised and thus it is unfair to complain that we tried to protect any corrupt individual.”

In early June, a WB delegation came to Dhaka on the government's invitation and the team had discussions with the government on corruption allegations and the project's implementation, Muhith said.

After this discussion the WB sent a letter asking the government to take some steps that included sending on leave the officers allegedly involved in the corruption and keeping a WB-designated panel informed about the progress in the probe and taking their advice.

“The problem with these proposals was that we were forced to admit the corruption allegations before they were substantiated. Therefore, we did not accede to their proposal and resorted to other means to dispel their concerns.”

Muhith said the WB's proposal to form a separate inquiry cell was not necessary at all, as the ACC had already formed one, while the bank's advice regarding giving a foreign panel full access to the findings was not in conformity with ACC laws.

The government floated tenders for the main bridge in April 2010 with permission from all the partners. Later, a re-tender was floated on the advice of the WB following a change in the bridge's design, he said.

The minister added the WB thrice advised the government to accept the Chinese company CRCC for qualifying in the prequalification. "But the evaluation committee comprising experts did not accept the advice."

The bridge department following an inquiry informed that the CRCC never applied for reconsideration, and the company's Bangladesh agent, Ventura International Ltd, resorted to corrupt practices in this regard.

"The World Bank went on to repeatedly recommend the CRCC …. As a result, the project implementation was delayed by three months. We don't know whether the World Bank has taken any action against those who were connected in this scam," said the minister.

Later, the CRCC informed the government that it was not interested in the project. At the same time, it cut off relations with its Bangladesh agent.

Muhith said two officials from the integrity department of the WB visited Bangladesh in April to probe the allegations of corruption in the project. They also met a group of business and spread "indecent rumours about a respectable person," the minister added without naming who the "respectable person" was.

"At this meeting, an official named Howard Dean lodged a complaint of corruption against a respectable person. One of the members present in that gathering protested firmly and requested him to refrain from spreading this kind of story. He also challenged him and asked him to show evidence in support of this allegation. In the end, the World Bank official withdrew his comments and apologised," he said.

Muhith said a representative of the government went to Washington and held talks with senior WB officials on how to eliminate possibilities of corruption in the project.

"Taking the secret and informal proposal into cognizance, the prime minister took steps to bring in new leadership in the bridge division," he said, adding that the services of the project director were terminated and the secretary and the then communications minister were transferred.

Following this, the top management of the bank said it would inform Dhaka about its stance after discussions with the WB president.

"Later, they [WB officials] told us that our proposal and other steps could not satisfy the bank. They suggested the work of the bridge remain suspended until the Canadian probe is completed. They also suggested that the inquiry by the Anti-Corruption Commission should continue," Muhith said.

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Oh, this is such a shame for the incumbent government. I can just imagine that prior to the World Bank's decision, those in power and their middle men were all wearing smirks, rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of earning a well deserved commission from the $1.2 billion loan from the World Bank, only for the project to fizzle away in front of their very eyes.

With only two years to go before the next election, I suppose the incumbent government will have to find another way to empty the treasury before the next group of corrupt hungry politicians and bureaucrats come to power.

: Abdul M. Ismail

Sheikh Hasiana is ruler of 55 thousands sq. mile territory. The world is much bigger than that. So, think before you do something. Already you have done a lot of damage to Bangladesh.

: Anonymous


  • rch
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:36 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    I am sorry, who maligned the People? It is unequivocally, undeniably, and unmistakably your party in power lead by your leader and yourself are 100% to be blamed for putting a corrupt individual before country and people.

  • abz kahar
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:53 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    We are being lied to AGAIN!!! Since 1971 we have not moved forward. All our politicians are lining their pockets at the expense of the poor low paid workers of the country.

  • Afsana
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 03:28 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    It's utter failure of the then communication minister, secretary, chief engineer and other concerned to manage their job. The minister should have stepped down long ago and proved himself clean. Then he could bring allegation against the WB for tarnishing his image. This minister has earned bad name for us. The WB is not clean either; they got their own agenda to implement. Now it depends upon the government to prove this allegation against Bangladesh false as they claimed. If they could succeed then file defamatory suit against this financial institution in the international court of justice. Those who are highly pleased for such step of WB will be ashamed of as well. Please defend your country first and then demand fair investigation and trial against those involved in corrupt practices. Don't politicize this issue. ACC has got the best scope to prove it existence. They should investigate the matter efficiently and independently even if it goes against the ruling party.

  • AmarBangla
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 05:16 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Who shattered the dream of us?Definitely,not WB.Why you people are trying to hide the alleged persons when this type of person are brought behind bar to prove the innocence in the remaining world?Why PM and cohorts are not disclosing wealth statement as this was an election pledge?Other than proving corruption,you are trying to hide the corrupted.Why?In fact,your boss is inspiring corruption that paralyze almost every sectors.The loss that is done by AL is not comparable to the regime of former dictator or Zia family.

  • Tuesday, July 3, 2012 06:19 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Oh yes. It is World Bank to blame for corrupt Bangladesh Government minister. It is WB responsibility to try and punish our minister for corruption.

    Give me break Mr. Muhith!!!

    It is easy to fool common Bangalees, not the WB.

  • Asif
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 08:27 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Beggars can't be chooser. Muhit and PM defending from side line their corrupt official.

  • ahsan khan chowdhury
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 09:03 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    I think Dr. Younus has taken advantage for his personal gain to kill our country's development.

  • Md. Abir Hossain, Kchar , Dhaka.
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 09:18 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    We, the common people, do really understand who are the culprits behind the corruption. But our government would always blame the World Bank. It would try to give transcripts to its ministers since they are not involved in corruption ( according to the ruling party.) The government would remain silent although there are a lot of logical prove not virtual. It will neither catch the accused nor inquiry neutrally. On the other hand The World Bank is now controversial to many respects is known to all. I think it is the laziness and unwillingness of the govt which stop the road to The Padma Bridge.

  • Hafeejul Alam
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:12 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    As a sovereign country, neither the elected government nor the ACC, a constitutional set-up, can be dictated by any foreign agency. Yes, Bangladesh needs money for Padma Bridge but not at the cost of national humiliation. I would urge our political leaders, irrespective of party affiliation, to raise voice against the whims of the World Bank. World Bank with it's history of massive corruption allegation right at their highest level, can hardly touch the image of Bangladesh by just denying 1.2 billion dollars in loan for Padma Bridge.

    According to the known circle, the government can easily raise 3/4 billion dollars by issuing bonds, Our NRBs can also come forward to invest.

  • Anonymous K
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:00 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The Fiance Minister does not know what he is talking about. For the sake of this nation the Govt. must let these minister go immediately.Otherwise this country will be on the verge of collapse soon.

  • Kamal
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:18 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    To protect one Abul Hasan the whole nation has to pay the price. How long our people want to keep quiet for all the misrules and corruption by the corrupted politicians? As a nation we all must find a way get rid of marry-go round games by our so called leaders.

  • abdul patwary
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:03 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Mr. Muhit and the govt are behaving like jackals. They think that the world cannot see nor understand. Last night in a tlk show it was made clear that he the intent to commit crime by a bunch of commission seekers is the crime. No money has to pass to any hand. Yet the fin min is harping that no crime no irregularity has taken place. All in BD believe that it is abnormal for Abul Hossain not to indulge. Who is he protecting that has become the prime question and why?

  • Osmani
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:18 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    We, unfortunately, are not convinced that WB is talking about corruption without substantial evidence. The government need to show its courage to acknowledge and go after the culprits. However, there is hardly any reason to believe that, that would happen !

  • anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:37 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Dr. Yunus is the root of all evil. Mr. Mohit should convince Prime Minister so she returns Dr, Yunus his empire of Grameen Bank to him. Things will change overnight.

  • Faisal
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:37 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The main issue here is that the 'intent' of corruption, maybe our Govt personnel demanded bribes or commission from the Candian firm, and maybe some whistle blower passed on this to the WB, now WB is saying they have informed the Govt. and the PM of who those people are, so why did our 'honest' PM did not take any action? Was someone very close involved? if the WB allegations were untrue, then why did the PM/FM/Comm Ministry counter those allegations? it all comes down to the inability or unwillingness of the Govt to act in time.

  • Blue Sky
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:54 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Cancellation of Padma bridge project by WB may be a political decision of USA. This is the effect of resigning Dr. Yunus from Grameen Bank. If Yunus has minimum responsibility and love for country, he will do something for the much expected project.

  • Talat Islam
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:20 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    So much to protect one minister who is considered to be corrupt by most of the Bangladeshis! Wow!He must be really powerful. AL govt. is ready to sink its reputation for this one minister! Wow!

  • F Khan
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:26 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    I can hardly get over how Mr. Muhith comments on the decision of the past chief of WB as hasty and imprudent. Why doesn't he look at the imprudence of the government in properly responding to the WB directives? Wasn't government nonchalance about measures in the wake of corruption allegation imprudent?

  • parveen ahmed
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:27 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    why not just punish the culprits, instead of bring the whole country to disrepute? what kind of hold does the ex-communication minister have over this government that he is so untouchable?

  • Salma Islam
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 04:30 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Don't try to shoot the messenger, listen to the message! This government considers itself very powerful. It has become used to doing whatever it wants on the domestic scene - from shutting down Channel 1 to humiliating Dr Yunus to cancelling the caretaker system and putting opposition leaders in jail. The same arrogance is visible here. Instead of investigating the matter properly through judicial committee, the government is blaming the World Bank!

  • ripon
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 04:38 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    what can you say mr. muhit that would make the WB change it's decision. we, ourselves don't believe you, how can you expect WB to do so. Good luck Awami League in the next election.People don't forget deprivation, remember that.

  • bangladeshi
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 05:56 PM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Here talks the most unsuccessful finance Minister on earth. He is killing all middle class people by his foolish planning of budget.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:11 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    WB told Bangladesh government to take action against some corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who were involved in bribery. The government did not take any action.

    It is not only WB which decided not to give loan, but also Asian Development Bank. Soon JICA may withdraw too.

    So, Bangladesh look into yourself without blaming others.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:40 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The damn-care policies of the Bangladesh government as brought this catastrophe to the country. It is the result of ignoring the world views on certain matters Hints and warnings were given by the concerned persons/countries but the leader of the country turned deaf ear to those things. The end result is the present situation. Nobody else can be blamed but the Bangladeshi leaders.

  • Maruf
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:43 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    In my opinion the Government had sufficient time to act on the corruption issue and create transparency towards the Bangladeshi people. There seems to be no single iota of truth and honesty in the members of this Government. The statement of Mr. Muhith is too late.

  • Jumana Sarwar
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:46 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Muhith is completely out of touch. He was hoping business as usual, but unfortunately credit crunch around the world made it difficult to continue support the government with trickle down development concept. WB in fact did not insult the whole country rather it does a great justice to the nation by unmasking the corrupt administration with a hope that we establish rule of law.

  • Nasirullah Mridha,USA
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:49 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    If Muhith took proper step by taking bold decision of not stepping in ACC's investigation things could have different.Government pulls the ACC strings behind the curtain and ACC's all comments apparently reflect the governments pig-headed decisions.It's time to recast ACC with strong will-power person who could pursue each corrupt person irrespective of party affiliation.

  • Manzoor Ashraf
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:21 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    WB has stipulated rules and regulations so why should WB compromise its gold standards?

  • Nawaz UK
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:47 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    But Mr Muhith, you and your government also ignored WBs proposal to end corruption.

    You said "I consider that the WB statement has humiliated the whole country and the allegation labelled against us is not well founded."

    Yes you mare absolutely right whole country has been humiliated because of this, but "not well founded"??? You still don't accept the truth, do you? You can deny it as much as you want but whole world can see.

  • Truth Teller
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 01:28 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Everyone in the Awami League government will blame the World Bank's decision for its own failure to take stern action against the corrupt people. It's easy and cheap.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:19 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Awami league, unlike BNP or others, is all through a people oriented party and can't do anything against public interest. WB and their controllers behind know this well that the govt is definitely not the one to comply with their will against the interest of the nation and the region. No wonder WB withdrew from Padma Bridge project. Corruption may be there. But that could be settled in win-win situation.

  • Mahbub Dalim
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:08 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    If the government really wants the people's sympathy then have to take harder step against ex-communications minister and others who are related with this corruption. The government have to remember that Bangladeshi people rejected BNP just for corruption. So be ready to receive that kind of result if you commit crimes.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 03:50 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    This World Bank insult is totally unjustified. Indians working at WB sabotaged the project. Indians have a very keen interest in weakening Bangladesh security and economy.

    Padma is our river and the bridge will also be ours. Padma doesn't belong to anybody.

    All of Bangladeshi people must unite and condemn corrupt World Bank.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 04:07 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    This is not the end. Awami League, BNP, JP, and all other major political parties should work together to bring the nation out of this crisis. We should all spare a moment to think about the poor people of our country who could have benefited immensely from this bridge.

  • London Eye
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 05:39 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The Finance Minister has echoed feelings of majority and his government would probably win the argument whereas WB wouldn't give any damn argument except unsubstantiated allegation. Have they published anything for the people to become aware of? Make no mistake the WB was akin 'world of bunkum' unless they disclosed the whole matter.

  • Sharif Mohammed
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 07:24 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The Finance Minister wants the row between the govt and the WB to be resolved. This is the right decision, however, the rhetoric from different ministers including the Finance Minister is counter productive. The GOB is trying to portray the decision of WB as an insult to the people of Bangladesh, I think it is rather the GOB that has insulted the people of the country by trying to protect the accused.

  • Fida Likhon
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 07:30 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Is Sayeed Abul Hossain more important than Padma Bridge?

    This is shame that can not be covered by throwing blame to Robert Zoellick. Please remove any minister and government official whoever s/he is. Remove the greedy and dishonest ministers and officials from the power.

  • Siddique
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 07:31 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The Finance minister should realise that Bangladeshis have rejected everything he has said on this topic. It is up to him to prove the World Bank was wrong.

  • nick
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 07:55 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    This is the biggest testimony that this govt is totally incompetent and is not trusted at all. The government should resign if they have any shame.

  • Nazrul Islam
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 08:06 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Finance Minister Muhit has no qualm to blame WB & others. Bangladeshis know very well how the whole administration and the society at large are corrupted. We need Padma Bridge no doubt, but not at any cost. WB may have done a service to Bangladesh as a consequence of this debacle. Accept fair criticisms & punish those corrupt people to go forward for real economic development of the country.

  • BALuquitNow
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:28 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Muhit is useless mainly due to his old age. He should just go home and spend time worshipping. The AL has beaten BNP in eating up the country.

  • Kazi Salim
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 08:21 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    From the speech of the Finance minister, it seems that the World Bank has totally ignored the steps Bangladesh Govt took. Why did the out going President Robert Zoellick took a mysterious decision without informing the Govt of Bangladesh? He did not show minimim respect to the people and the govt. Since the WB did not release a single cents as part of the loan, questions of committing should have raised after releasing the loan funding. Why did the it recommend several times in favour of a Chinese consulting farm CRCC, which was declared by the Bangladesh govt a 'black listed' and later on withdrew and closed its Dhaka office? Is it not a gross violation of the policy of the WB supporting a black-listed company in favour of it?

    The govt should ask for clarifications from the World Bank. We as an Independent and Soveriegn nation has every right to exercise our national and state rights in the world arena. Bangladesh is not such a country like Afghanistan and Pakistan those are misusing World Bank and other donor country's financial donation or grants without any accountibility. The WB just got the funding cancelled, 'in the nib in the bud, without showing minimum respect to the country.

  • Sellma
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 02:54 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    The WB does not entertain corruption. WB loan fiasco will show to the World that Awami League is morally devoid and deemed to be a corrupt organisation as all of its officials should be banned from all foreign countries immediately.

  • ShamimH
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 07:52 AM GMT+06:00 (188 weeks ago)

    Let us clear the air. Our Colonial mindset assumes everything in UN is clean and all that is dirty is in Dhaka.

    I believe the real reason for this cancellation was the obsession of the PM and her son to dismiss Yunus from Grameen Bank and this was the pay back. And more to come the longer Yunus is kept out of Grameen Bank. Trust me on this - the worst is yet to come!!






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