Mashiur Rahman all set to go?

In the interest of Padma bridge funding, Mashiur Rahman has primarily agreed to step down as the prime minister’s economic affairs adviser, highly placed government sources have said.

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The co-financiers of the project — Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) — have extended their loan effectiveness after getting specific commitment from the government to remove Mashiur, officials of the two agencies said.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith assured ADB Director General for South Asia Juan Miranda of Mashiur’s removal when they met on Thursday, they added.

The resignation of Mashiur, who is also the integrity adviser of the project, is the last hurdle in efforts to get revived the $1.2 billion loan cancelled by the World Bank in June over corruption allegations.

On Thursday evening, a meeting of World Bank, ADB and Jica, was informed of steps the government has already taken and its next move for resolving the stalemate over Padma bridge funding.

The WB also told the meeting about its latest position.

Held at a Gulshan hotel, the discussion was attended by Juan Miranda, among others, the officials added.

The officials also said the government letters requesting the ADB and Jica for extending the loan deadline, which was due to expire on Friday, had mentioned Mashiur’s leaving the post.

After this commitment on part of the government, at the last moment the ADB extended the deadline by one month and the Jica by three weeks, they added.

The ADB had pledged a $615-million loan and Jica $400 million for the construction of the 6.15km bridge that would connect the capital with the country’s 16 southwestern districts.

The WB recently came up with three conditions, including the removal of Mashiur, for withdrawal of its loan cancellation.

The two other conditions are issuance of gazette notification about the resignation of Syed Abul Hossain, and terms of reference (TOR) to ensure a WB panel’s access to the ACC probe into the graft allegations.

About a month after Syed Abul Hossain resigned as ICT minister, the cabinet division issued a circular on August 23 declaring the post vacant.

Sources said the ACC might also sign the TOR following a signal from the government high-ups.

Talks on the reversal on WB loan cancellation started afresh, following massive diplomatic efforts involving the US, India and Japan, but uncertainty prevailed over Mashiur’s resignation.

Juan Miranda’s positive response to the press after meeting with the finance minister on Thursday was also based on the promise that Mashiur would go, said one of the officials.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was apparently unwilling to put pressure on the adviser to quit while the WB was firm on not withdrawing the loan cancellation if he stayed.

After Hasina went to Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit, a senior minister held an exclusive meeting with the PM’s adviser, government sources said.

The minister tried to convince Mashiur to resign for the sake of the country.

The adviser would get a clean chit if he resigned and the allegation against him was proved unfounded through the Anti-Corruption Commission probe under WB supervision, the minister said. The people would also consider him as innocent.

At this point, Mashiur agreed to step down, the source claimed.

However, a top finance ministry official said nothing can be said for sure until the adviser resigns.

Mashiur was not available when The Daily Star phoned his residence for his comments yesterday.

As the PM returned from the Nam Summit yesterday, a decision about Mashiur’s resignation is likely to be taken in a couple of days.

The official said the government has also informed the co-financiers that no final decision on the adviser could be taken as the PM was abroad.

In a meeting with PM’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi in Washington last month, WB officials gave a clear signal of withdrawing the loan cancellation if all conditions were met.

Officials said the government had informed the ADB and Jica about the WB indication. Also, Muhith himself had told this to the ADB director general.

The finance ministry official said WB Managing Director Mulyani Indrawati played an important role in the process of the loan revival.

After Mashiur’s resignation, the government would send a formal letter to the WB this week requesting withdrawal of the loan cancellation, the official added.

News Source:  The Daily Star

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