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Padma Bridge: An Outcome of PM's Firm Conviction

  • Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday
  • 1st June, 2022 04:28:57 PM
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Just a few years ago, before the construction of the Padma Bridge was started, the World Bank revoked its decision to finance the Padma Bridge, alleging corruption. But they failed to present adequate proof to substantiate its allegation. The biggest thing is that not everyone understood how corruption could happen when the bridge construction was not started, and no money was spent. According to the newspaper sources, the World Bank had a page of a diary in its hand, which they handed over to the government and the Anti-Corruption Commission to prove that there was corruption in the Padma Bridge. During that time, the representative of the World Bank met with the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh and pressured him to take action on this issue which was published in the newspapers at that time. This was asserted by different people in the government also. The World Bank believed that if such an immoral pressure were applied to the government, they would comply with their conditions and act according to their instruction.

At that time, Hon'ble Prime Minister - Sheikh Hasina - made a firm decision. She did not acknowledge any allegations of corruption. She repeatedly called on the World Bank to provide the necessary information supporting their allegations. She announced that she would take action against those individuals if the World Bank could provide the required proof against them. That allegation of corruption by the World Bank later proved false by the courts. But the Bank took its final decision and stopped financing the Padma Bridge. In that situation, the people of Bangladesh did not expect that the Padma Bridge could be built in the country with the own funds of the Bangladesh government. In this regard, just as the then Leader of the Opposition criticised the government on allegations of alleged corruption by the World Bank, many tried to downplay the government by joking that the Padma Bridge would never be built in Bangladesh under the Awami League government.

Only one person standing in that position declared very firmly that the Bangladesh government must build the Padma Bridge, and that would be at its own expense. The decision of the Bangladesh government to construct a megaproject like the Padma Bridge with its funds could be perilous. Our country's economy has stood on a solid foundation for the last 13 and a half years, but it is also true that it was very risky to build such a mega project with its funds. Economists have pointed this out at various times. But their prophecies proved to be false as time went on. The government started work on the Padma Bridge, which is almost complete. Today, the Padma Bridge is a prominent installation in front of those who used to laugh and joke about it. The government has already decided that the Bridge will be opened to the public on June 25, which means that the Padma Bridge is a reality in Bangladesh, ending all speculations.

Much has already been written about the Padma Bridge. What kind of positive impact this Bridge will have on the economy and communication system of the country has been revealed through various writings. The main point is that a new horizon of communication with South Bengal and other parts of Bangladesh is about to open with the opening of the Padma Bridge. We know that saltwater fish are exported to different parts of the country and abroad from South Bengal. But due to the communication system, transporting fish was expensive for the fish farmers. With the opening of the Padma Bridge, it will be possible for them to reach Dhaka and other parts of the country quickly using this bridge. Moreover, people's travel time in this region will be significantly reduced. Even the use of the Padma Bridge has the potential to open a new horizon in regional connectivity with other countries, including our neighbours, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the economy.

There have already been a lot of talks about naming the Padma Bridge. The Awami League and everyone in the government wanted the Bridge to be named after Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But in this case, the Hon'ble Prime Minister has once again proved her generosity. She has presented to the nation that she believes in deeds, not names and fame. The decision to name the Padma Bridge after the traditional fast-flowing Padma river without naming it after herself has been lauded at all levels. Through this, as the worthy daughter of Bangabandhu, the Hon'ble Prime Minister has once again been able to clarify that real happiness is not in enjoying but in giving up. Bangladeshi politicians can learn from her decision. By using the bridge over the river Padma, the people of Bangladesh will express their gratitude to the Awami League and the Hon'ble Prime Minister - this is the expectation of all.

A pertinent question in this context is whether the decision to build and implement the Padma Bridge with its funds was a straightforward matter? The simple answer to this question is "no". It was an incredibly bold move. Sheikh Hasina could take this decision because she is the daughter of Bangabandhu. Due to the firm and far-reaching thinking of the Hon'ble Prime Minister, she understood very quickly that once the work on this bridge would be started, there would never be a financial crisis. Later, when the government started working on the bridge with its funds, many giant donor agencies expressed their intention to finance the bridge. Even the World Bank expressed its intention to reinvest in other mega projects, and in many cases, new agreements have been signed with the government.

It would be a disgrace for an institution like the World Bank to have that allegation of corruption falsified. According to various newspaper reports, different catalysts influenced the World Bank's decision to cut off funding for the Padma Bridge. If such allegations are proven true, it is never desirable for them. Any act against the country by abusing one's power is a crime. If the World Bank is affected by a specific catalyst, it is also a pity for institutions like it.

Everyone believes that the inauguration of the Padma Bridge on June 25 will open a new horizon in the communication of the country. It is expected that the bridge will facilitate internal communication and strengthen the communication of the southern part of Bangladesh with other South Asian countries. The positive impact of the Padma Bridge on communication and the economy will have a positive effect on the overall economy of Bangladesh. The Bridge over the fast-following Padma has been built due to the courageous decision taken by Hon'ble Prime Minister and Bangabandhu's worthy daughter Sheikh Hasina. As long as the people of Bangladesh would use this bridge, they would express their gratitude to the Hon'ble Prime Minister. Therefore, there is no way to disagree that Padma Bridge is an outcome of Sheikh Hasina's well thought out and determined decision. She has proved others' speculation wrong in this regard.

The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi

Source: Sun Editorial