If sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a matter of national priority at the moment, the call from a programme at the capital on Wednesday last for best use of project funds and greater coordination between and among local government bodies, development partners and grass-roots people is an important and timely one. While the country rejoices in one of the highest rates of growth in the world, development projects and other government initiatives to augment and sustain that growth have to be meaningful, up to the mark and adroit. Otherwise, it will adversely reflect on the pattern of utilisation of funds, so hard-earned either through the tax-payers' money or participation of development partners. All these have to be gathered at a sufficient cost. The programme organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) was participated by leading think tanks of the country as also by development partners DFID and people's representatives. It underlined appropriate and efficient use of development funds. 'Engaging citizens in the development process' has also been voiced. This is true for the developed world. Then why do we lag behind in this aspect can be asked by conscious people.
The Bangladesh development budget has grown over the years. The first budget of 786 crore taka in 1972 may seem paltry even by the standard of a big project of today. That budget has grown to Tk 523,190 crore in 2019. Development projects have always had an important share in it. In 2019, of the total budget, Tk 202,721 crore was for development projects. Most of it is channelled through the Planning Commission, established in the first year of independence. Although at present the major part is domestic resource, there is a significant participation of donor money, which again is repayable through tax-payers' money in most cases. After independence the country made tremendous progress on account of decades of peace and tranquillity interspersed with upheaval and unrest. Especially since the opening of the economy in the early nineties, Bangladesh has maintained a steady growth rate, now over 8.0 per cent. That the project money is not always properly used has been brought to focus by the Finance Minister's pointer to the pitiable condition of roads in his own constituency. It is an eye-opening that a person who has held the Planning Minister's portfolio for five years and now in overall charge of monetary allocation of the whole country, and indeed its overall budget, has to rue the fact that he cannot go to his rural home smoothly. If seen against the figure that over 26 per cent of the development budget or nearly Tk 61,360 crore is earmarked for overall communication, which includes roads and bridges, it seems unbelievable.
The SDGs are the nation's solemn pledge to the United Nations and to itself also. The government has raised an effective structure to oversee its fruition. Efficient people have been placed to carry forward the tasks. If project funds are not properly used leading to a dismal state of infrastructure, implementation of SDGs may be impeded. What the way out is may be the pertinent question in the public mind. The CPD's seminar deserves plaudits for raising the issue of proper utilisation of fund, and more importantly, connecting it to the issue of SDGs. All efforts go in vain if efficient utilisation of money is not ensured.
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