Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lack of China funds stalls Padma bridge rail links

  • Zafar Ahmed, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2018-01-09 11:11:44 BdST

The Padma rail link project seems uncertain as the government has failed to sign a loan agreement with a China bank in time.

A railway ministry letter sent to the Prime Minister’s Office in November 2016 says the rail ink project must be rolled out in January 2017 for launch in 2019 along with the Padma Bridge.

The rail communication must start simultaneously with the launch of the bridge, as per orders from the prime minister, according to the letter.

“The implementation of the project will start once the loan agreement is signed with China by December 16,” it read.

But the Economic Relations Division under the Ministry of Finance is yet to sign the loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China thus stalling the project.

“The (rail link) project is a significant one beyond doubt. In mid-2017, we took measures to speed up the process but the deal with China’s Exim bank could not be inked although it was due in December,” said Md Zahidul Haque, additional secretary of ERD’s Asia wing.

“But we are still hopeful that it may be signed within next few weeks.”

The delay has been caused because the Chinese government wants to go by its law, he added.

A senior ERD official told bdnews24.com that the Chinese government told Bangladesh at the eleventh hour that permission from the China’s state councillor was mandatory for the deal to be signed.

The Tk 350 billion project is for building 172km railway tracks over the Padma bridge from Dhaka to Jessore.

It is among the 27 deals including 12 loan and mutual agreements that Bangladesh and China signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Dhaka visit in 2016.

China is due to provide Tk 250 billion in loans while Tk 100 billion will come from the Bangladesh government.

A seven-strong delegation led by State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan will visit China sometime between Jan 21 and Jan 23 following the green light from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said an ERD official.

“The visit is yet to be finalised although a proposal has been made,” ERD Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam told bdnews24.com.

Kazi Shofiqul Azam, Md Zahidul Haque, and Railway Secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain are among the delegation members.

The Padma bridge project is due to be complete in 2020, as per latest adjustments that extended the deadline by two years.

On Dec 27, the PMO issued a letter to the ERD asking it to convey the matter to Chinese authorities and sign the loan agreement with no delay.