Problem projects threaten $2.0b WB loans

Slow execution may lead to pullout

FHM Humayan Kabir | Published: April 02, 2019 09:08:56 | Updated: April 04, 2019 16:46:23

Reuters file photo

The World Bank (WB) has warned that it will reconsider financing projects worth US$ 2.0 billion unless the authority expedites implementation of the projects , officials said Monday.

The global lender may even withdraw funds if the agencies fail to speed up the execution process of the WB-aided projects, they added.

The Bank issued the warning while reviewing 11 problem projects at a meeting at its Dhaka office last month ; it is providing lion's share of the costs for those undertakings.

The Bank sat with the project executing agencies and the Economic Relations Division (ERD) to review its portfolio to get the updates on the projects.

"Since the performance of eleven development projects is not satisfactory in terms of fund utilisation and physical progress, the World Bank reviewed those seriously," a senior ERD official said.

The purpose of the meeting was, however, to remove the obstacles that stood in the way of execution.

The Bank picked up 11 of its aided projects for stocktaking as those were struggling.

Among the poorly-performing projects are $100 million college education development programme, $176.71 million national agriculture technology programme (NATP)-II, $210 million Bangladesh modern food storage project, and $150 million Bangladesh regional connectivity projects, and $360 million Bangladesh regional water transport project.

Besides, the $60 million VAT improvement programme, $245 million Bangladesh safety-net programme for the poorest, $50 million low income community housing project, and $300 million income support programme for the poorest, and $65 million Bangladesh insurance sector development project are performing below the optimal level.

The lender had made the commitment of providing nearly US$2.02 billion worth of concessional loans for the projects on various occasions to improve Bangladesh's different sectors, including infrastructure, education, finance, water supply and sanitation.

It also expressed its dissatisfaction over start-up delays and slow progress in the procurement process concerning some projects, another ERD official said.

The global lender suggested speeding up the implementation or it would be forced to review its assistance for the weak progress, he said.

He said the Bank also suggested removing procedural bottlenecks that impede implementation.

The WB helps Bangladesh develop its infrastructure and cut poverty, including increasing school enrolment, improving health status, expanding renewable energy access, and providing rural roads and water supply.

During fiscal year 2017-2018, the Bank channelled nearly $800 million in loans.


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