Posted by Zubair Khan
Source: The Economist.
Buddy, can you spare a dime? A very, very large one?
THERE is no lack of world-beating records in Bangladesh. It starts as the world’s most densely populated country (not counting city-states and the like). Its capital, Dhaka, merely an undistinguished district headquarters at time of partition from India in 1947, can now be counted as the fastest-growing city in the world. Female leaders have ruled the country for longer than have men—which is to say, longer than women have anywhere else. No country at peace with its neighbours has more citizens shot dead by the security forces of one of its neighbours. The world’s biggest NGO, also apparently the best, BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), bears the name of its home country. Despite astounding progress, 53m Bangladeshis, fully one-third of the population, still live below the poverty line.
Until the end of January, Bangladesh was also the location of South Asia’s biggest infrastructure project to funded by donors. The Padma bridge, a proposed river crossing that was to cost $3 billion to build, would also have been the world’s longest, at a length of about 10km. But its fate has become forlorn, since the Bangladesh government withdrew its request to the Word Bank for financing, on January 31st. The decision to turn down $1.2 billion in cheap loans—the biggest pile of cash the World Bank has ever offered to a single country—came a day after the bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, forcefully stated his commitment to not allow crony capitalism to persist under his watch. (Mr Kim went on to use the Padma bridge as an example of the bank’s stance in the face of “insufficient response by the authorities to the evidence of corruption”.)
Thanks, but no thanks, seemed to be Bangladesh’s reply. With the refusal of the World Bank’s conditions went the loans that it had under negotiation with the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Co-operation Agency: altogether nearly $3 billion. Since Bangladesh cannot borrow from international markets, the net result of the government’s apparent intransigence is that 30m people, who are cut off from Dhaka by the vast Padma and the Jamuna (known to India as the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, respectively), and cut off from the rest of the country as well, will have to be patient.