Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain last year told former US ambassador in Dhaka James F Moriarty that development of transport infrastructure in Bangladesh was critical to Awami League's re-election chances, according to diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
Abul Hossain told the ambassador that completing major infrastructure projects in southwest, south-eastern and northern regions was critical to Awami League's re-election chances, said February 2010 cables of Moriarty.
Terming Abul Hossain “a less than honest” man in his business dealings, the envoy said the minister remained focused on delivering the infrastructure projects he and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have promised to voters.
He also mentioned the minister's ties with China.
Moriarty, who departed on June 17 this year on completion of his service in Bangladesh, sent the cable following his conversation with the minister at a dinner party on Feb 3 last year.
The cables involving Abul Hossain were in the whistleblower website's latest releases on Aug 30.
The minister also told the diplomat about progress on road projects in south-eastern and northern Bangladesh, and requested the US government's support for an elevated road project in the capital.
At a dinner, Abul Hossain expressed satisfaction with the levels of support donors planned to provide for the Padma Bridge project, which will for the first time link the country's southwest with the capital.
According to the minister, the World Bank pledged $1.5 billion, the ADB $550 million, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) $500 million, and the Islamic Development Bank $130 million for the project, primarily in soft loans.
However, the minister complained that JICA was insisting on dividing the contract for the bridge into two parts: one for the bridge's sub-structure and another for the super-structure. Under this plan JICA's loan would fund the sub-structure.
But the government, WB, ADB and other partners opposed this idea on the grounds that a single over-arching contract for the bridge itself would limit competing claims of liability in the event of future problems.
Abul Hossain said the Japanese proposal would allow two different contractors to pass the blame to each other for any problem.
He asked the ambassador to urge JICA to reconsider its stance, using his good offices with Japan and the US government support for the World Bank and ADB.
Abul Hossain and the ambassador agreed that many companies were interested in bidding on the Padma Bridge project.
One US firm had shown interest in the river dredging portion of the project and surely more US companies were to step forward as the bidding process progressed, Moriarty added.
The other two linchpins in the minister's infrastructure-for-elections plan are expanding roads from Dhaka to Chittagong and Dhaka to Mymensingh, he said.
Abul Hossain also urged the US government to support a Dhaka infrastructure project that would be tangible proof of the strong US-Bangladesh relationship.
The transport boss described several initiatives to modernise the country's decrepit railways.
In addition to expanding the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, the minister said construction to broaden the single rail line between the two cities to a double rail line would begin within a couple of months.
He said the prime minister had also tasked him with developing an elevated rail system in Dhaka to alleviate the city's traffic crisis.
According to the minister, JICA had expressed interest in loaning funds for the $3 billion project; alternatively, the elevated rail system could be a public-private partnership project.
Finally, he explained to Moriarty his plans to transform Bangladesh Railway into an independent, though government-owned, entity from its current structure as a government-run enterprise.
The former US envoy said the minister was clearly determined to fulfil his mission to develop infrastructure with a view to improving connectivity and securing votes for Awami League.