M Abul Kalam Azad
Bangladesh will seek around US$4.68 billion in assistance from the Chinese government to implement 28 projects in telecommunication, infrastructure, energy, and health sectors at the Bangladesh-China Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting scheduled to begin in Beijing tomorrow.
During the three-day bilateral talk that will take place after a four-year hiatus, Bangladesh is expected to discuss all projects, and reach an understanding on financial and technical assistance from the Chinese government. A $3.68 billion financial assistance will be sought as grant, soft loan, and supplier’s credit.
Since 1976, China provided Bangladesh with $321 million as grant, $227 million in soft loan, and $978 million as supplier’s credit, official sources said.
Since Dhaka finds the conditions for the supplier’s credit unfavourable, it will request Beijing to relax those.
Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan will lead a seven-member Bangladesh delegation while Vice-minister Chen Jian will lead a nine-member Chinese delegation to the 12th JEC meeting. The Bangladesh delegation will leave for Beijing today. The last JEC meeting was held in Dhaka in May 2005.
Some of the major projects that Bangladesh will push for, are introduction of 3G telecom network and expansion of 2.5G network at an estimated cost of $211 million, constructions of the Second Padma Bridge at an estimated cost of $579.21 million, Pagla/Keraniganj Water Treatment Plant at a cost of $267 million, North Dhaka (East) Sewerage Treatment Plant and associated sewerage system at a cost of $121 million, and construction of the Second Meghna Bridge on Dhaka-Chittagong highway at an estimated cost of $125.36 million.
Dhaka will formally request Beijing to provide $1.4 billion to implement the Ganges Barrage Project, and $88.12 million for restoration of the flow of Buriganga river and for a project for prevention of river pollution, says the list of projects to be discussed at the talk.
Earlier, Bangladesh requested China to provide $560 million for implementing the North-West Fertiliser Company Limited project. China however proposed a mixed credit scheme for the project, to which Bangladesh responded by urging China in June this year to provide the assistance for Shahjalal Fertiliser Company in Fenchuganj instead.
At the talk in Beijing, once again Bangladesh will request for a financial assistance of $600 million for the much awaited Rooppur Nuclear Power Project. In February 2007, ERD sought the assistance from China, but a response is yet to come.
National ICT infrastructure network for the Bangladesh government phase-2 at an estimated cost of $130 million, construction of a single line metre gauge railway track from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar via Ramu, and from Ramu to Gundum at an estimated cost of $210 million, a railway bridge with provision of dual gauge double track over the Jamuna river at an estimated cost of $172 million, Karnaphuli tunnel at an estimated cost of $289 million, and construction of Barapukuria 125 megawatt coal fired thermal power station at a cost of 47.4 million are the other projects expected to be discussed.
China already showed interest in construction of five simply equipped rural schools in Bangladesh, and in conducting a feasibility study for Kazirtak Bridge over the Arialkha river. ERD will seek financial assistance for those too.
An inter-ministerial meeting was held on Wednesday at the finance ministry with Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhit in the chair to prepare the delegation for the JEC talk.
LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam, Health Minister AFM Ruhul Haque, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Razu, Power and Energy Adviser Toufiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, State Minister for Power and Energy Shamsul Haque Tuku, and State Minister for Science and ICT Yafes Osman attended the meeting.
“Since China is an expert in the infrastructure sector, I hope all important projects will be accepted after discussions,” Syed Abul Hossain told The Daily Star after the meeting.
Source: The Daily Star, 25 July 2009