Revving up development project execution  

Published: July 26, 2018 22:09:24 | Updated: July 28, 2018 22:12:57

The allegation that failure to conduct proper feasibility study of projects prior to their execution remains one of the major weaknesses of the public sector development programme has never been contested by the policymakers concerned. Nor have the latter showed any interest to address the problem that along with a few others is largely responsible for cost overrun and delays in execution of development projects. Japan, the largest bilateral development partner of Bangladesh, last week brought to the fore all these issues while reviewing the status of the projects financed by it. The Japanese officials present at the review meeting reportedly highlighted in particular the delays usually made in the approval and implementation of development projects under various pretexts. They said such delays do very often make implementation of projects rather challenging and affect return, economic or otherwise, from those. The observation is also identical to those of most multilateral donors and local independent development practitioners.

Implementation delays, caused by both visible and invisible factors, of projects are very much common these days. Proposals seeking hike in costs of projects and extension of their execution time do come very often to the Planning Commission (PC). The phenomenon is quite common in case of large infrastructural projects. Allegations have it that delays are often made deliberately with an ulterior motive of embezzling a part of the additional costs.

The Japanese officials' particular emphasis on conducting proper feasibility study prior to taking up development projects does deserve due attention of the policymakers. This, in fact, is a must-do practice world over. Such studies are carried out to know whether the projects, when completed, would deliver results up to the desired level. Such studies do also help executing agencies to know about the possible hurdles they would be facing while implementing the projects concerned. Findings, thus, help stop wastage of time and resources on unviable projects. Unfortunately, the public sector agencies here are found not to be serious enough about conducting proper feasibility studies on projects. At times, coming under pressure from powerful quarters, they send development project proposals to the PC without conducting any such study. Even some feasibility studies are carried out only in name. However, such deliberate neglect to a very important requirement does produce negative results. Instances are aplenty where projects implemented without proper feasibility studies turned out be a total failure.

A couple of other suggestions---appointment of sufficient manpower during execution of projects and not to change project directors (PDs) frequently--- made by Japan does also deserve serious scrutiny. Most public sector agencies have in them one common feature---sloth. They, apparently, abhor dynamism and speed. That is why these agencies drag their feet on almost anything, including execution of development projects. However, some ministries/ agencies tend to show love for 'change' in the case of PDs. Such a change does affect execution of projects seriously. The fact remains that the size of the annual development programme (ADP) has increased manifold over the years. But the style of selection, preparation and execution of projects has not changed much. The government has implementing a number of mega projects when the capacity of executing agencies remaining almost unchanged. Its outcome is evident from cost overrun and delays in project execution. It is high time the government took appropriate measures to improve the situation, much to the liking of the country's major development partners.

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