Left breaks  world bank taboo

Published: 11th September 2018 04:00 AM

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Left Front made no bones about what it thought of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. A loan from either of these agencies was perceived to be a subjugation of the state’s interests. Not anymore. Even as the Kerala government is quick to rule out any strings attached by the World Bank, there is no denying the existence of a stiff timeline on project completion.

Therefore, it is a welcome break from the past to see the LDF government start negotiations with the World Bank for a `3,000 crore loan to rebuild its public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, which were destroyed by the floods.

A quick recap: In 2002, Kerala took a $255 million (`1,224 crore) World Bank loan. It took 11 long years for the next one, $216 million (`2,403 crore) in 2013. Both were for road projects. The tardy implementation of the second project led the World Bank to recommend partial rollback of the credit line last year with an imposition of `300 crore as penalty. Kerala has also taken ADB loans. The first was a $221.2 million loan in 2005 for upgrading and expanding urban infrastructure.

Then, after a nine-year gap, came a $100 million loan in 2014 to increase the employability of higher secondary and undergraduate students.It is to be seen if the LDF will show the required maturity while meeting project implementation parameters set by the funding agency.

There is a case right here: The Kochi Metro Rail project first phase, with French agency Agence Francaise de Development loan worth EUR 175 million loan (`1,500 crore) was completed well within time. What Kerala would want is for the government to not get bogged down by historical trappings. After a day when the LDF and UDF showed a rare unity while enforcing the Bharat Bandh in the state, it would be worth remembering that no funding agency would shut its eyes on stoppage of work. And the World Bank is no exception.

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