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One-fourth of approved projects get revised in 2019

Authorities buckle under pressure


FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Published: January 04, 2020 14:26:53 | Updated: January 07, 2020 10:49:11


Picture used for illustrative purpose only — Collected

The top economic policymaking body has revised a good number of projects in the first year of the government, or one-fourth of the total approved in its second term, officials said.

In its 22nd meeting held last year, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, or Ecnec, approved the revision of 52 projects of different ministries and agencies. The council okayed a total of 207 projects during the period.

Critics said the revision of development projects has become a usual practice in recent years, which results in both time and cost overrun.

During the same time, the council also endorsed 135 fresh projects, officials said.

Development experts and government officials noted the recent years have seen an uptrend in amends by the executing agencies, which revise their ongoing development projects failing to complete those in time.

It not only delays the development work and raises cost and time overrun, but also affects the expected financial and economic rate of return of the projects, they said.

For example, on December 25, the Ecnec revised the Savar tannery industrial estate project for the fourth time, whereas the expenditure has shot up by nearly six times to Tk 10.15 billion from the original cost of Tk 1.75 billion.

In another case, the state-run Roads and Highways Department, or RHD, has failed to complete a 30 kilometre- Itna-Mithamoin-Ostogram road during its five-year deadline, which forced it to amend the project doubling the cost to Tk 8.95 billion from its original estimates of Tk 4.38 billion.

The department has taken 16 years to complete the 3rd Karnaphuli bridge in Chittagong, which started in the fiscal year (FY) 2002-2003.

The project was revised four times, with costs spiralling by 82 per cent.

In September 2019, the Ecnec revised the conversion of 150-megawatt Sylhet gas turbine power plant to the 225-megawatt combined cycle power plant project for the 2nd time raising the cost to Tk 9.10 billion.

A senior Planning Commission official said if no punishment is meted out to people responsible for the failure in project execution in time, then this trend will continue unabated.

This project revision trend has not only wasting the money of the state, taxpayers are also failing to get the expected services from the government, he said preferring anonymity.

Economist Dr Mirza Azizul Islam said he has been noticing that the cost and time of most of the projects are being overrun.

"Government offices tend to revise the projects enhancing the cost and execution deadline. It is not only affecting the economic viability of the projects, also their outcomes," he added.

Dr Islam suggested the government introduce "reward and punishment" system for the project heads for their successes or failures in implementation.

Another commission official said that they have got tired of revising projects as every week they receive scores of proposals for revisions.

"When we refuse to endorse the revision of the ongoing projects, the ministries concerned put pressure on us to do it," he said.

"It has emerged as one of the big problems for the government's planning process," said the official who asked not to be named.

Director General of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, or BIDS, Dr KAS Murshid said it is "painful" that the country has not overcome such a practice.

"In many cases, the projects are undertaken following pressure or influence from the powerful quarters in the government or in the ruling party," he told the FE.

Often, the projects have little or no feasibility studies, for which the goal of development work cannot be achieved, he said.

He said he finds it difficult to accept such a practice because many countries in the world have been able to overcome such delays and wastage of public funds in project execution.

Dr Murshid said the government should strictly monitor the project implementing agencies and take action against project directors for their failures.

kabirhumayan10@gmail.com

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