They also recommended formation of a national committee or authority for the quick execution of the mega infrastructure project.
Addressing the roundtable discussion, titled ‘Much Expected Padma Bridge: Present Context and National Responsibility’, the fund for the project can easily be realised by selling bonds to non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) and introducing surcharges on mobile phone users.
The roundtable was organised by Institution of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh (IDEB) at its head office in the city.
They, however, demanded a neutral investigation into the allegations of corruption against both the representatives of the government and the World Bank.
They stressed that the construction of Padma Bridge without assistance from the WB is quite possible, both from financial and technical aspects, but cautioned that good governance and monitoring of the works will be needed to make sure the proper use of the money.
Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed, said, “I hail the Prime Minister for deciding to build the Padma Bridge with our own fund, if needed.”
“The cancellation of the WB contract has opened up an opportunity for us. Now we can asses our strength as a nation and stretch our ability,” he said.
Kholiquzzaman said, “Some people are telling that if the WB doesn’t assist us with US dollars, the balance of payment (BoP) of the country will be affected due to the huge spending from the national exchequer to procure construction materials and technical consultation.”
“But if the government decides to sell NRB bonds, a large share of the required amount can be accumulated and the BoP will not be affected,” he added.
Kholiquzzaman, however, said the government needs to convince the NRBs saying that there will be no corruption and misuse of money in this regard.
A national committee or authority with honest and proved persons can be formed to monitor the construction of the bridge, he said, adding that the national-level body will be effective to earn the confidence of the citizens both at home and abroad.
Former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) Prof Dr Shafiullah said the country has all the preparations, both financial and technical, to launch the construction of the Padma Bridge without loan from the WB.
“Most importantly, all the primary designs for the bridge have been completed… the pre-qualification processes for selecting foreign construction companies as contractors are going on. It must be noted that 50 percent of members in the panel of experts in the project are from Bangladesh,” said Shafiuallah, also a member of the evaluation committee for the Padma Bridge project.
Bangladesh Krishi Bank chairman Khandker Ibrahim Khaled said although the WB cancelled the loan for the Padma project, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) haven’t withdrawn their promised assistance.
“And there’s a possibility that China will provide support for the bridge. We aren’t alone,” he added.
State Minister for Water Resources Md Mahbubur Rahman said if the engineers of the country can give their own technical support and ensure the required support from abroad, the financing of the bridge will not be a problem at all.
Chaired by IDEB president AKMA Hamid, the roundtable was also addressed by Member of Parliament ABM Anwarul Haque, Local Government Secretary Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan, Housing and Public Works Secretary Khandaker Shawkat Hossain and IDEB general secretary Md Shamsur Rahman.