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Tuesday, January 13, 2015, Poush 30, 1421, Robiul Awal 21, 1436 Hijr

Sonadia deep seaport project off fast track list
Shahnaj Begum
Published : Tuesday, 13 January, 2015,  Time : 10:47 AM,  View Count : 51
The government has dropped the much-talked-about Sonadia deep seaport project from the list of its first track projects.
Earlier the project was deemed urgent and very important as the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) observed that its implementation would help the country expedite progress.
Among six top priority projects Sonadia deep seaport project involving $16 billion was placed under the Fast Track Project Monitoring directly by the Prime Minister.
During the tenure of Awami League between 2009 and 2013, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had taken up six projects for implementation on a priority basis.
These are Padma Bridge, deep seaport in Sonadia, metro rail in Dhaka, coal-fired power plant in Rampal, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and an LNG terminal at Maheshkhali.
According to highly-placed sources in the Secretariat and the PMO, a number of countries such as Japan, China, United Arab Emirate (UAE), India and Germany were vying to secure the multi-billion-dollar contract for the deep seaport.
"We selected three parties -UAE, China and Germany- but India and the Netherlands also got involved here as a party. However, we finally started to go slow as we need to check every proposal that needs more time," a senior official at the PMO told this correspondent on Monday.
According to sources, last year Dhaka opted for a consortium financing model led by China to accommodate others in construction of the mega infrastructure, but during the Prime Minister's visit to UAE it also showed interest in deep seaport, an official involved in the project said.
Some local and regional factors worked for the change in government stance on signing the Sonadia deep seaport agreement at the last minute before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set off for China.
"We sat three times in the last one year to discuss the implementation of the top priority projects although we need to sit every month to discuss the progress and remove all hurdles, including red tape, to ensure that these are implemented as fast as possible," the official added.
The UAE's state-controlled DP has long been showing interest in the port construction, the official said adding that Bangladesh wants to boost its trade ties, especially manpower export to UAE.
According to sources, the government is keen to take into consideration the feasibility study on the port already conducted by Japan along with the one to be conducted by China.
Another official said though Chinese officials were found interested in supplier's credit system as a financing modality, they were not rigid about it.
"Actually, we were not much interested in going deep into the negotiations. We want further discussions," he noted.
A Foreign Ministry official said that before striking a major deal with any country the government wants to know the attitude of India as it plans to install an LNG pipeline with India.
He said, "We also examine the issues like concessional loans, operation modalities and supervisory aspects relating to construction of the port."
Economic Relations Division Secretary Mohammad Mejbahuddin said that the discussion to award the contract to China would continue.
"Negotiations with countries will also continue to finalise all aspects, including financing modalities, to construct the deep-sea port as we want a win-win position," Mejbahuddin added.

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