Govt to go tough on project revisions
"The prime minister in today's meeting directed timely completion of the ongoing projects and also forbade repeat revisions of projects. She has made it clear that she doesn't like this practice."
The government is chalking out punitive actions for repeated revisions of development projects and weak feasibility studies as it looks to inject professionalism and seriousness into the process of project implementation.
The development comes after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expressed her disapproval once again at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).
Of the eight projects approved -- involving Tk 4,826.21 crore -- at the meeting, three were revised ones.
"The prime minister in today's [yesterday's] meeting directed timely completion of the ongoing projects and also forbade repeat revisions of projects. She has made it clear that she doesn't like this practice," said Planning Minister MA Mannan at a press briefing following the meeting.
The minister admitted that they still have limitations in implementing projects but there have been some improvements in the last few years.
However, there are also some practical reasons and complex issues behind the delays in implementation, he said, while citing reasons like the global coronavirus pandemic, the impact of the Ukraine war, inflation and others for delays.
Many decisions have to be taken well after the project proposal has been prepared or some decisions have to be changed later, he said.
"These cause delays and cost escalations. However, we are making improvements," Mannan added.
Planning Secretary Md Mamun-Al-Rashid said they were planning to include negative indicators while evaluating the performances of the concerned officials in case of repeated revision of the projects.
A committee has been formed led by the planning secretary and this committee would formulate a guideline to make the officials accountable, he said, adding that workshops would be held among all stakeholders and ministries to educate them on the guideline.
Regarding weak feasibility studies of projects, he blamed it on the absence of competent firms -- private or state -- in Bangladesh for conducting this exercise.
"If a private firm does a weak study, it is difficult to take action against them as they would have already taken their payment and left the scene when we figure the fault in their work."
The ministry will take steps against government organisations for conducting a weak feasibility study, Rashid added.
Among the projects that got approval is the revised proposal for the third submarine cable, which got the green light in December 2020 for completion by June 2024.
The project's original cost was Tk 693.16 crore. It will now cost Tk 1,055 crore and its deadline extended by another year.
The government will provide Tk 476 crore for the project and the rest will come from the state-run Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, the agency implementing the project.
Another revised project that got the nod yesterday was the sixth revision of the project for modernising the security of 32 jails in 28 districts under Dhaka, Mymensingh and Chattogram divisions.
The project was originally scheduled to be implemented between January 2016 and December 2017.
After extending the implementation period six times, a new deadline of June 2023 has been fixed.
Its cost also increased: from Tk 32 crore to Tk 49.98 crore.
The other revised project placed at the meeting is the Info Sarkar (phase-3) project. This is the fifth revision for the project, which was originally scheduled to wrap up in June 2018. It will now end in June 2023.
It will not cost Tk 2,141 crore, which is more than double the original estimated cost of Tk 1,999 crore.
The government will give Tk 915 crore, with the remaining funds coming from China's Exim Bank.
Meanwhile, at the press briefing yesterday, Mannan said people can breathe a sigh of relief as inflation is going down.
"We are not saying that it is already at satisfactory levels, but still, inflation is falling. The wage rate is also going up which is a good thing."
Another ray of hope for the economy is that there is a possibility of a bumper Aman harvest.
"This is also great news for inflation. The supply of goods is very important," he said, adding that the agriculture minister said the production of vegetables has increased six-fold.
The government has about two million tonnes of food grains in stock
Mannan expressed hope that inflation will go down further in November and continue the descent in December and January next year.
Inflation declined for the second straight month in October, shows data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
In October, inflation stood at 8.91 percent, down 19 basis points from the previous month.
The remittance inflows are now showing a positive trend, Mannan said quoting the central bank authorities.
"Media often reports on the dwindling reserves. As such, I request the media to also report when the reserves increase."