Bangladesh to use $200m Indian grant for bridge

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - The Bangladesh government will use the US$200 million grant from India's $1 billion credit for the Padma bridge project if it decides to build the bridge with its own resources, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said yesterday.

Following a meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, Muhith told reporters, "I just told them that most likely we are going to use it for the Padma bridge."

The government can use the $200 million grant for whatever purpose it wants and the first instalment of $50 million of the grant will be released soon, Muhith said after the meeting at his secretariat office.

Referring to the proposals from China and Malaysia for constructing the bridge, Muhith said those are other options that the government has for implementing the project.

He said the government will decide by next month whether it would accept the Chinese or Malaysian proposal. And if the government builds the bridge with its own resources, the process of the project's implementation will resume from where it got stuck.

Muhith said he had discussions with the Indian foreign secretary about the release of $800 million of India's $1billion credit, and said India would disburse the money gradually.

The minister also told reporters that he will meet World Bank President Jim Yong Kim this month.

He said the WB is Bangladesh's largest development partner and the Bank's contribution to the on-going projects is $4 billion.

Muhith said the global lender had earlier committed $1.2 billion to the bridge project as part of its Country Assistance Strategy. And since the government withdrew its request for the $1.2 billion loan, he would discuss with Kim how Bangladesh could get the money for any other development project.

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said his country is eager to get involved in the bridge project, but it is yet to hold any formal talks with the Bangladesh government on the issue.

"We would certainly like to involve those, who can contribute to this in whatever way...whether it is through participation as companies or as financiers or by going to the market to assist such a major infrastructure development project," said Mathai.

"We have not begun any formal discussion on financing Padma bridge. We know Bangladesh is in touch with various international agencies and other international partners," he said.

Mathai was speaking at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Shahidul Haque.

He said Bangladesh could use $200 million grant of India's $1 billion credit for financing the bridge or any other project.

"India has told Bangladesh it could use the $200 million grant in any way it wishes."

"All I could say is this project is a very large one." Mathai is of the opinion that a single partner would not be able to deal with such a large project.

The Indian foreign secretary said once completed, the Padma bridge would be "a really transformational project".

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