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ADB slaps ‘negative’ tag on rollback

Calcutta, Nov. 13: The Asian Development Bank (ADB), funding a Rs 1,245-crore infrastructure project in the city, said today it was “deeply disappointed” at the rollback of water tax.

Yesterday, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee had announced the rollback, though she does not have the authority to do so, as she publicly displayed that she is the one who calls the shots at Calcutta Municipal Corporation and not mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Seeking an early meeting with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government, Alex Jorgensen, head of the ADB’s Delhi-based development wing, said the decision came as a surprise because every city with which the bank was dealing charged for filtered water.

“It will be a very negative thing to do if they really have to call off the water tax. There is no point in cutting down on revenue while building infrastructure,” he said.

“Our covenant with the CMC requires them to effect certain reforms to generate revenue and we have spoken of the water tariff increase because it costs money to operate a water system,” Jorgensen said.

“We just want the CMC to be self-sufficient in this area by 2008 and don’t care how they do it,” he added.

Mukherjee admitted that international agencies would now be sceptical of the civic body’s intentions. “I am extremely disturbed over this forced rollback,” he said.

It was not explained why he agreed to it and, if it was forced on him, why he did not resign in protest.

“I shudder to think what is going to happen to this city in terms of development. We have managed to portray ourselves as capable of being disloyal to international contractual norms,” Mukherjee said.

The ADB said it had sought a meeting with the chief minister, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and the municipal authorities. “Now that we have heard about it, we shall visit Calcutta earlier than planned,” Jorgensen said.

Although the ADB would expect an explanation for rescinding an agreed step, it would not cancel the loan over this.

Senior government officials said the civic body was risking punitive measures like withdrawal of government assistance. The civic body received Rs 250 crore from the government for non-plan expenses.

“The government has to pay back the ADB loan…. How are we going to repay if there is no attempt at raising resources'” an official said.

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