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Support to Bangladesh to continue: WB

Publication Date : 01-03-2013


The World Bank will continue to support Bangladesh in its road to development despite frictions for one and a half years over financing of the Padma bridge project, said the global lender's president.

Jim Yong Kim said the WB and the Bangladesh government can collaborate to bring down the number of poor - more rapidly.

“But, governance and anti-corruption measures must be in place to ensure that every dollar is used for the intended purpose of benefitting the poor,” said Kim Yong during his meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at WB's headquarters in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

High officials of both the Bangladesh government and WB were also present at the meeting.

The WB has assured that the US$1.2 billion reserved for the Padma bridge project would be allowed for use in other projects, said finance ministry officials.

The fund, however, would be released upon satisfactory assessment of the proposed projects by a team from the WB headquarters, due in Bangladesh soon.

The government intends to use the sum for the construction of a separate rail bridge on the Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge, budgetary support for social safety net programmes and a Bus Rapid Transit system between Shahjalal International Airport and the Dhaka city centre, the officials added.

The controversial Padma bridge did not come up in the discussions, but implementation of other social sector projects was discussed at lengths.

The WB president commended Bangladesh for the significant progress it made in overcoming poverty.

“Bangladesh has the potential for faster economic growth and poverty reduction,” he said.

A WB statement following the meeting further said: “Bangladesh has made remarkable progress towards achieving the poverty reduction targets set by the Millennium Development Goals for 2015.”

By sustaining annual growth rates of around 6 per cent in the past decade, the country has witnessed “a profound social transformation” with an influx of girls into the education system and women into the labour force.

Economic growth has pulled 16 million people out of poverty in the last 10 years, but the development needs still remain “large and pressing” with around 47 million people still living in poverty, the WB said.

The WB president also raised the Grameen Bank issue at the meeting, in response to which Muhith presented the government's position on it, said officials present at the meeting.

Muhith flew out to Washington on February 24 to “improve the relations with one of the largest development partners of the country”, which has been strained due to the Padma bridge project.

Following allegations of corruption in June last year, the WB cancelled the US$1.2 billion financing for the Padma Bridge.

Upon request from the Bangladesh government, the global lender reengaged with the project, only for the government to withdraw on January 31 due to its inability to meet WB's conditions.

Since 1972, the WB has provided around US$16 billion for: strengthening the social safety net, enhancing the health and education systems, adaptation to climate change, infrastructure modernisation, empowerment of local governments, promotion of reforms to stimulate broad-based growth and agriculture development.

At present, the WB is financing 41 projects in Bangladesh worth US$4.23 billion.


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