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A historic day for Bangladesh in WB

Published : 03 May 2023 01:49 AM

It was really a historic day for Bangladesh. The World Bank that brought corruption charges against the country in 2012 and stopped funding the biggest-ever infrastructure project Padma Bridge, showcased Bangladesh in a big way in its headquarters in Washington inviting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The prime minister, who was undeterred in implementing the mega project with the country’s own fund, presented a painting of the iconic bridge, inaugurated in June 2022 connecting the capital Dhaka with the South, to the World Bank President David Malpass during the event.

“I presented this photo because the corruption charge against us was false. I took it as a challenge and built the bridge with our own fund. The Canadian court also proved that there was no corruption (in the Padma Bridge project),” she later said as the World Bank celebrated its 50 years of partnership with Bangladesh on Monday.

 During the event, the global lender also agreed to provide a loan of $2.25 billion to Bangladesh for its five development schemes on regional trade and connectivity, disaster preparedness and environmental management.

 The celebration of 50 years of partnership began in January from Dhaka, but its ending in Washington was unprecedented.

 The Prime Minister and the World Bank President inaugurated a three-day multimedia photo exhibition depicting Bangladesh’s development story over the past five decades.

 “This is for the first time a single country is projected here in such a big way,” Mehrin Ahmed Mahbub, Senior External Affairs Officer of the World Bank, told Bangladesh Post, when asked. “In my knowledge this is also for the first time a Bangladesh Prime Minister is visiting the World Bank headquarter.”

 After independence in 1971, World Bank President Robert McNamara visited Bangladesh and met Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 31, 1972.

 Bangladesh became a member of the World Bank Group in August of 1972. In November of the same year, the World Bank approved the first project for Bangladesh, a $50 million Emergency Recovery Credit to help the war-torn nation rebuild the transport and communication, agriculture, and industrial sectors, as well as provide support for the construction and power sector.

 At the same time, the World Bank reactivated four projects that had been approved before the liberation war. Since then, the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, has committed over $40 billion in financing in the form of grants, interest-free loans, and concessional credits. With about $16.3 billion in financing for 56 ongoing projects, Bangladesh has the largest ongoing IDA program.

 “As Bangladesh’s largest development partner, we welcome its progress in income growth and poverty reduction. We are committed to continuing our support to enable the private sector, create new job opportunities, broaden the tax base, strengthen the financial sector, and build the country’s resilience to economic and climate shocks,” said President Malpass.

 “Many countries can learn from Bangladesh’s development successes. The country stands out for its innovative approaches to reducing poverty in record time, empowering women, achieving wide-spread electricity access, and adapting to climate change,” he said.

 The prime minister during the visit also interacted with the board members when she regretted that the World Bank had to stop funding Padma Bridge project due to “external pressure”.

 But she said, her visit to the headquarters “signals that we maintain our trust in the World Bank.”

 “Bangladesh will continue to move forward undeterred. My presence here signals that we maintain our trust in the World Bank. Our success in the next two decades would depend on our collective ability and efforts to overcome the emerging challenges in a just and sustainable manner. We must remain united towards making millions of our people still lagging behind live a happy life in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s ‘Sonar Bangla’,” she said.

 The prime minister also reminded that she was not here to “beg” from the World Bank. “We take loans and we repay that with interest. We are partners, so we have the right (to take loan)”.

 She also made five specific suggestions in consideration of the “upcoming development imperatives”.

 First, the ongoing global multiple crises, caused by the pandemic, armed conflicts and climate emergency, have put most developing economies under serious stress. Some of our development partners have chosen to increase their lending costs and interest rates, which detract from their core mandate. I call upon the World Bank and other development partners to find viable alternatives so that our economies can cope better with the emerging challenges.

 Second, Bangladesh is preparing for smooth and sustainable graduation from the UN LDC status in 2026. I request the World Bank to support our human capital and institutional capacity development programmes for a smooth transition. The critical IDA window needs to be preserved and continued.

 Third, Bangladesh has aligned UN SDGs with its national aspiration to become an upper middle-income country by 2031. There is an urgent expectation that the World Bank and other development partners deliver increased, concessional and innovative financing for SDG implementation.

 Fourth, Bangladesh hopes that the World Bank’s enhanced engagement in climate action would help address the wide gaps in financing under the Paris Agreement. We would stress the importance of equal distribution of financing between climate mitigation and adaptation.

Fifth, Bangladesh will continue to invest in infrastructure and logistics for realizing our vision to become a high-income economy by 2041. I would expect the World Bank to engage in both our physical and social mega-projects in the coming years, said the prime minister.