World Bank pulls out from Bangladesh bridge project over corruption

The World Bank over the weekend cancelled a $1.2 billion loan to Bangladesh for constructing the country's longest bridge over corruption involving Canadian construction giant SNC-Lavalin and high-level Bangladeshi officials.

The Washington-based lender's decision will come as a big blow to Bangladesh since the 6-km multi-purpose bridge over the river Padma would have linked the remote southwest region with the rest of the country, including the nation's capital, Dhaka and the country's Chittagong port.

The bridge was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 and would have reduced travel time from 12 hours to 3 hours.

The World Bank had in February 2011 agreed to loan $1.2 billion of the total project cost of $2.93 billion, with the balance funding expected from the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Islamic Development Bank.

A unit of SNC-Lavalin had bid for a project, where the winning bidder was to act as the engineer on behalf of the Bangladesh government for supervising the contractor responsible for the overall bridge construction project.

Citing alleged corruption in the bidding process, the World Bank had in September 2011, launched an investigation and requested the Canadian authorities to search the company's Ontario office. (See: WB investigates Canada's SNC-Lavalin on Bangladesh Padma bridge project)