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Friday, January 25, 2013
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Quit WB job, join politics

Muhith pokes outgoing country boss

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday advised that the World Bank Country Director Ellen Goldstein had better quit job and join politics in Bangladesh.

“I have an advice for her. It will be better if she gave up her World Bank job and joined politics here,” Muhith said this to reporters after a meeting of the cabinet committee on purchase at the secretariat.

When reporters drew his attention to the WB country director's view that a decision on Padma bridge funding might not be possible by the end of this month, the minister said Ellen Goldstein is leaving this month.

The finance minister said Goldstein has spoken on many things. She even claimed she is the most popular person in the country as she unearthed a big corruption.

Ellen Goldstein addressing a function at the National Economic Council auditorium on January 19 said, "My name will probably always be associated with the Padma bridge project and with the World Bank's insistence on a serious investigation of corruption evidence under that project.

"And I know this because Bangladeshis now stop me in the streets, in shops to thank me for taking a strong stance against corruption.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Finance Minister Muhith earlier had said the government will go for alternatives if the World Bank decision on the Padma bridge funding was not available by January.

But Muhith yesterday said, “I have said we want a decision by January. But if it is not January, we have a time limit in our mind and we don't want to go beyond that.”

As reporters insisted, he declined disclosing the “time limit”.

The finance minister expressed frustration over the WB's present position regarding the Padma bridge project. “They have decided to stay on but there is no way till now to guess when they will start work. We are frustrated at this.”

Talking about the alternative funding, he said, “We have talked with the Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency and Islamic Development Bank so that they continue with the project even if the World Bank does not come forward.”

Besides, a couple of other donors have also expressed interest, he said, admitting that for their inclusion in the project as financiers, concurrence of the existing co-financiers will be required.

The minister said this is a very complex process.

An official from a co-financier earlier told The Daily Star, "If the World Bank does not agree ultimately the agreement with Bangladesh will break down ineffective."

"If the WB does not want to finance the project for the corruption allegation, the co-financiers might also not be interested to make any new commitment as governance is a key condition before they agree to finance any project."

The co-financiers sat in Manila last November to prepare a draft for the arrangement of quick implementation of the project.

But the process did not go too far as Abul was not included in the FIR, said the official.

Yesterday, Muhith also told journalists the government has long been in talks with Malaysia on the Padma bridge funding. Earlier, the government did not take their proposal into cognizance as it was incomplete. Now they have reiterated their interest. China is also interested but first they want a settlement of the complexities with the World Bank.

On a question referring to some ministers, especially minister without portfolio Suranjit Sengupta, saying if a former minister (Syed Abul Hossain) is sacrificed, the World Bank will finance the Padma bridge project, Muhith replied the ministers know nothing about the project.

“These colleagues have not seen the bridge related documents as those are highly secret. This is why they are making such comments.”

The finance minister added that he had earlier said and was still saying that there has not been any corruption in the Padma Bridge project. However, a conspiracy was there.

When the reporters noted the Anti-Corruption Commission statement that corruption took place in the project, Muhith said, “I don't know how they are saying this.”

Reporters again asked him why the Bridges Division secretary had to go to jail if there was no conspiracy. The minister advised the reporters to ask the question to the ACC and go through the first information report (FIR) the anti-graft body filed.

The World Bank had cancelled its $1.2 billion funding on June 29, 2012, saying it had proof of a "corruption conspiracy" involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some individuals.

The hope to get the loan was revived as the global lender on September 21 last year decided to come back to the project after Bangladesh agreed to its terms and conditions.

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Muhith received good education from highly acclaimed schools at home and abroad. He also worked at the World Bank. He should know how the World Bank works and what it can do. He should also know how the professionals behave. Ms Goldstein did everything she is supposed to do according to the World Bank policy. If Muhith, Abul and other AL ministers had followed the laws of Bangladesh, as Ms Goldstein followed the World Bank policy, then the Padma Bridge fiasco would never have happened. Whatever Muhith has said about Ms. Goldstein is not expected from a professional like him. Well, Muhith is not a professional anymore, he is politician now; and like many politicians, he has no shame left and cannot control his tongue. This statement of Muhith about Ms. Goldstein will not go well with the World Bank for any future projects and definitely not for the Padma Bridge. We are already seeing the writings on the wall that the World Bank will not fund the Padma Bridge project since the corrupt AL government and the toothless ACC have bungled the investigation process.

: Truth Teller

Some people after knowing everything start mockery with their own citizen and continuously question the intellect of ordinary citizen are sick and mentally retarded. They should seek refuge to old homes and may wish for some Medicare. They are not fit for anything else.

: Jumana Sarwar


  • OpeeMonir
    Friday, January 25, 2013 12:39 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Lacking in professionalism, breaching of protocols and by any standard this is an unbecoming behaviour from a bureaucrat turned into politician who happen to be a Finance Minister of a country. We are sad and it is a real shame.

  • Siddique
    Friday, January 25, 2013 12:43 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    JICA and ADB will not fund the Padma Bridge project without clearance from the World Bank. The corruption allegations have been publicized worldwide. Ignoring them would cause global condemnation on any multilateral lender. The Honorable Finance Minister should quit politics if he does not understand this concept.

  • Ronny
    Friday, January 25, 2013 12:43 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Mr. Muhith, Ellen has integrity and has the courage to stand up to the face of adversity, Her education and up bringing taught her to differentiate between right and wrong. Thus, she cannot be a politician like yourself.

  • Siddique
    Friday, January 25, 2013 01:18 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Foreign governments including the Malaysians will be more than happy to finance the Padma Bridge. Just remember they will charge an interest rate much higher than the World Bank. Add in the additional interest payments over the lifespan of the loan and it will total several hundred million dollars. Not exactly a good deal for Bangladeshi. However, I am sure there are government ministers who can find a way to line their pockets from this scenario.

  • R Khan
    Friday, January 25, 2013 01:58 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Same recommendation for honb'le minister too. Leave politics and join WB. You have fair potential and experience. But you miss the media exposure. Also you will have your voice rest.

  • Selma
    Friday, January 25, 2013 05:42 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    This Finance Minister is a fool to make such a personal attack on a wonderful lady who has been trying to help our nation develop. It is not her fault that certain powerful Awami League characters have ruined the Padma Bridge Project by their criminal actions. We need many more Ellen Goldstein in Bangladesh to help clean up our system otherwise we will always be poor and be a basket case to the world.

  • Tirtho Mahmud
    Friday, January 25, 2013 06:13 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Yes, Ms Goldstein's participation in Bangladeshi politics will certainly be more beneficial for this poor nation than whatever Bangladesh has got so far. AT least Mr Muhit got one thing right--Mrs Goldstein is much better suited as a politician. It's Mr Muhit and his fellow ministers and such who should leave politics and make way for Ms Goldstein.

  • Anwar Hossain
    Friday, January 25, 2013 09:10 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    Mr Muhit- Quit politics, do job.

  • Nasim Hasan
    Friday, January 25, 2013 12:38 PM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    It doesn't require any qualification to become an MP or so-called minister in Bangladesh. But it required a huge qualification to become a regional chief of WB. Unfortunately Mr Muhith fits the first category. And it is ironic to get advice from an under-qualified person.

  • hasan
    Saturday, January 26, 2013 02:14 AM GMT+06:00 (159 weeks ago)

    What a shameful comment by a educated person. I am waiting for the day this FM retires. He is making mockery of the country, himself and the govt. His Yunus bashing is world famous, now he has started bashing Ms Goldstein. Who is next ? Looks like Abul is his best friend now. Have some guts, resign...there is no grey area on what is right and what is wrong. Time to quit Mr FM.





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