ADP for FY 2020-21: Unapproved projects are there again
‘Political thinking’compromises development priorities
The coronavirus impact has failed to restrict public agencies from the race for including unapproved projects in the current development programme as nearly 1,450 have been added to tally.
An FE analysis has found that many of the projects in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for fiscal year 2020-21 have been incorporated without carrying out feasibility studies.
The government has included 1,347 fresh, but unapproved projects of different ministries and agencies in the ADP expecting fund allocations from the government's internal resources.
Another 96 unapproved projects have been incorporated into the development programme expecting project aid from bilateral and multilateral lenders.
In the new Tk 2.05 trillion ADP, the government has incorporated 1,584 ongoing projects, approved with fund allocations for implementation by all the ministries and agencies.
In contrast, the ADP has included the 1,443 new projects without approval and guarantee for funds.
In May, the National Economic Council or NEC, headed by Prime Minister, endorsed the ADP.
Planning Commission officials said they were forced to incorporate the unapproved projects under pressure from many ministers, members of parliament, secretaries and influential people tied to the government.
Development analysts and some public servants said most of the projects had been taken up on political consideration, ignoring the development priorities.
They said the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to check them to incorporate projects, which do not have any feasibility study or importance at this moment.
"The COVID has changed even the development scenario of the country. We need projects that have strong priority, not less important ones," said a commission member preferring anonymity.
"The indiscriminate inclusion of the unapproved projects by different ministries and divisions affects financial discipline and budget management of the government," a top official of the commission told the FE.
Since the ministries and divisions undertake the fresh projects by going beyond their Medium-Term Budgetary Framework fund ceiling, many of those struggle due to fund shortage, he added.
In the Tk 2.02 trillion original ADP for the last FY2020, the government also incorporated a total of 1,287 unapproved projects without fund allocation and feasibility studies.
Analysing the list of unapproved projects, the commission member said the highest number came from the Bangladesh Water Development Board, the Roads and Highways Department, the Local Government Division, the Ministry of Railways, and the Rural Development and Cooperative Division.
Indeed, water board alone has 134 unapproved projects.
The Road Transport and Highways Division has also included 133 unapproved projects, which have 182 ongoing approved schemes.
Another senior commission official said: "Most of the unapproved projects remain unimplemented every year due to lack of adequate fund allocation, proper feasibility study and design."
"We have no option other than including hundreds of unapproved projects every year following pressure from the ministers and political leaders. But most of such projects remain unimplemented at the end," he added.
The projects are included without proper feasibility study and design, and ultimately most of these are not approved by the proper authorities or are dropped from the list in the following year, the official said.
Former lead economist of the World Bank Dr Zahid Hussain said in many cases, the unapproved projects were included without feasibility studies, for which their execution in time is often affected =.
As the projects were not taken following proper rules and regulations of the government, those had not get adequate funds every year even after the approval from the government resulting in cost and time overrun, he added.
The government should prioritise the list of the fresh projects for the next year and then include in the ADP, Dr Hussain argued.
Ensuring governance in taking up and implementing the projects is a must for quality outcome from the development work, he said.
The commission member said: "In most cases, a few of such projects get allocation in the revised ADP or in the following year's ADP, thus raising cost from the preliminary estimation."
The inclusion of a large number of fresh projects in the ADP cannot bring good results, the official added.
Such a practice creates additional pressure on the execution of ongoing projects, according to the official.