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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rushed MoU between RHD and Chinese firm under spotlight

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury

A memorandum of understanding signed between the Roads and Highway Department (RHD) and a Chinese company, for the construction of Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar Economic Corridor, violates the Rules of Business, claimed a senior government official.
RHD additional chief engineer Bipul Chandra Saha last year signed the MoU on three Tk 100 non-judicial stamps, which ‘is extremely unusual,’ said the official.
According to rule 29 of the Rules of Business, 1996, all correspondence with a foreign government should be conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A sub-rule under the rule further states all requests for technical assistance should be made through the Economic Relations Division or Finance Division.
A senior foreign ministry official said the BCIM EC ‘is yet to get formal shape, rather, is in the process of formation.’
The official questioned how, before forming the Economic Corridor, a government organisation could enter into a contract with any company, local or foreign.
The Joint Study Group formed for the economic corridor had its second meeting in Cox’s Bazar last December and is going to have its third meeting in India in the second part of this year, informed the official.
‘The study group will submit its final report to their respective governments for the final approval of forming the BCIM EC after the third meeting,’ he added.
The MoU itself was signed on Tk 100 stamps as if somebody ‘is buying property,’ he pointed out.
Any agreement or memorandum of understanding, where the government is a party, is signed on white paper.
This type of initiative may raise suspicion among the other BCIM member countries, said another senior government official.
‘When you have both – China and India – in one organisation, everybody must be very careful with their initiatives,’ he said.
The official feared if India ‘feels threatened’ by any Chinese initiative, New Delhi might not actively play a positive role in the group.
The MoU stated ‘In view of the urgent requirement for the construction of BCIM Economic Corridor against Chinese government funding (on G to G basis), this MoU is executed between RHD and CCCC.’
Both the parties agreed that CCCC might send a team to RHD to inspect the project area of the BCIM EC Bangladesh portion, and conduct feasibility and commercial viability and study for assessment of funding for implementation of the BCIM construction projects, the MoU said.
When asked if the MoU was signed violating the Rules of Business, Bipul Chandra said it was signed with appropriate approval of the concerned ministry.
According to the documents accessed by New Age, the Chinese company sent copies of the MoU to at least six ministers, including the Road Transport and Bridges Division minister Obaidul Quader, and several top secretaries of the government.
Describing the MoU as ‘a non-binding agreement’, Saha said the MoU will be executed if the Chinese company can gather grant from its government.
So far there has been no development in implementing the MoU, he said.
This sort of agreements or MoUs ‘are often signed,’ he added.
The BCIM initiative is the result of ‘track II diplomacy’ and got a boost when China and India in 2013 agreed to discuss the issue formally.

Source: Bangladesh Newspaper - The New Age, 22 March 2015