WB wants ‘certain terms met’

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has made it clear that the global lender will not return to fund the Padma bridge project until ‘certain conditions’ are met.

I have no intention to pre-empt things, as legal and other processes have to run their course. Until certain conditions are met to heighten oversight in the project and give assurance that a complete and fair criminal investigation is underway, we cannot consider financing the bridge,” he said.

Kim was delivering a speech on “Anti-corruption Efforts in a Global Environment: A Commitment to Act”, at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies at Washington DC on Wednesday.

Last year, the global lending agency cancelled a $1.2 billion credit for the bridge project after the bank found ‘credible evidence’ of high-level corruption among Bangladeshi government officials.

The President said they needed to take risks for development results “but we have to do so with our eyes open and try to mitigate those risks as much as we can”.

He, however, said “sometimes things go wrong and then we need to stand firm”.

“This is what happened in the case of the Padma bridge project where insufficient response by the authorities to the evidence of corruption made us terminate a $1.2-billion credit in June last year,” Kim said.

He said it ‘loud and clear’ that when corruption was discovered in any projects and activities, “we have zero tolerance for it within the World Bank Group”.

The President’s comment came at a time when Bangladesh is waiting for a final decision on the Bank’s reengagement of the country’s biggest ever infrastructure.

The Bank’s external panel assessed the progress of the Anti-corruption Commission’s (ACC) ongoing investigation, but they were not ‘satisfied’.

While funding for the most ambitious infrastructure project of the country is unlikely to resume until the government sorts out the issues with the Bank, Kim said they were already engaged in Bangladesh with a commitment of about $4.3 billion in over 30 projects.

“Our lack of tolerance for corruption does not mean that we ignore the larger development picture,” he said as he made it clear that the central priority of his tenure would be taking forward ‘the corruption-fighting agenda’.

He also spelled out how the bank would address issues of anticorruption during his tenure.

The President said corruption exacts ‘a pernicious toll’ on development as showed in the bank’s study.

“Corruption acts as a regressive tax, penalising poorer citizens and smaller firms. It restricts access to services for the more vulnerable citizens and is associated with a lower quality of public services.

“It is a significant cost for business,” he said citing an estimate that $20 to $40 billion is stolen from developing countries each year.

He said when corruption seeps into the social sector, it means that a hospital is built without life-saving equipment or that a school is built without adequate salaries for teachers.

“It means roads are built without guardrails, or in some cases not built at all.

“And who pays for this? It is the poor who pay—sometimes with their lives. Corruption steals from the poor. It steals the promise of a brighter future,” he said.

Kim said the process of developing software was on to automate the corruption haunting process as the Bank began number of initiatives to stop corruption.bdnews24.com


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