By Mizan Rahman
Bangladesh has decided to ink a deal with China to build the Payra deep-sea port after it shelved the much-hyped Sonadia deep-sea port multi-billion project amid opposition from major countries, including India, over Chinese involvement.
The latest policy direction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would pacify China after they were left disgruntled when the government abruptly backtracked from signing an agreement in July, last year, on the Sonadia port, a senior official in the PMO said.
The shipping ministry has undertaken a move to amend the Paira Seaport Authority Act, 2013, inserting new provisions in the renamed proposed Payra deep-sea port authority act, 2015, to facilitate building the proposed deep-sea port, according to a decision taken recently in the PMO.
The policy making meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, included the deep-sea port in the list of the government’s fast track projects. The PMO asked the shipping ministry to go ahead and award the contract to a Chinese firm to construct the port, an official in the PMO said.
The shipping ministry is expected to select a Chinese company soon to award the contract to construct the multi-billion dollar infrastructure project of the country.
“We will soon select one Chinese company for Payra deep-sea port construction among four such state-owned Chinese firms who submitted their proposals,” Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan told newsmen.
The construction work of the deep-sea port will start next year, the minister added.
A senior shipping ministry official said the proposed deal to be signed with a Chinese state-owned firm under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will outline funding options, feasibility study by the company itself and total cost and duration to complete the project.
In the second phase, final agreement will be signed specifying cost of fund and rate of interest for low-cost Chinese loans.
Sources at the PMO said since June, last year, the construction of deep-sea port faced uncertainty as major regional and global powers joined hands together to restrict China’s involvement with the project.
The countries opposing the Chinese funded ‘strategic installment’ through the much-talked about deep-sea port, feel threatened of Chinese dominance in the pan-pacific territory in terms of port-related investment, a Senior Secretary of the Bangladesh government, preferring
The government officials confirmed that India, Japan and the US equally opposed the move of the government to go further with the Chinese proposal on constructing the port. The trio, however, have so far failed at proposing any alternative financing arrangement, it was learnt.
“Sonadia deep-sea port is no longer our next target as it involves huge time. We are going forward to construct Payra deep-sea port to become a regional business hub,” Shajahan said.
When asked, Shajahan rejected the notion of accommodating China with the new deep-sea port after the government had taken a U-turn from awarding contract to a Chinese company to build Sonadia deep-sea port.
“The perception is not at all true. We opted for Chinese company because they have enough experience on constructing such large infrastructure projects,” the minister added.
By Mizan Rahman