Why are not foreign funds for development spent?
According to a FE report, foreign aid has accumulated to a record high of nearly US$35 billion in the current fiscal for failure of government agencies to utilise it. Officials concerned said such a backlog in aid utilisation has multiple adverse implications for the economy and public finances as idle money involves huge debt-servicing costs.
Until the last financial year (FY) 2015-16, the total unused confirmed foreign assistance in .the pipeline had amounted to $21.95 billion. "Since the government agencies have failed to use the available and confirmed external resources due to their inefficiencies, external assistance is ballooning in the pipeline," a senior Economic Relations Division (ERD) official said.
ERD data shows that foreign assistance in the pipeline swelled by 58.95 per cent or $12.94 billion at the end of the first half (July-December) of the current FY2017 from $21.95 billion in unused aid as of the previous fiscal. The aid in the pipeline in the previous FY2016 had increased by 17.44 per cent to $21.95 billion from $18.69 billion in the previous FY2015 while it was recorded at $18.17 billion in FY2014, the ERD statistics showed.
In another development, the head of a Chinese delegation, which visited Dhaka, warned that the Chinese investors would move away from Bangladesh unless there is improvement of poor infrastructure and in getting services from different government agencies. The Chinese team known as the Council for Promoting South-South Co-operation of China under the leadership of Lya Yintua recently visited Bangladesh as a follow-up action of the Chinese President's visit to Bangladesh last year. They also advised the country to lay stress on increasing exportable products and find new markets including China where there is a wide scope. It may be mentioned that during the last financial year, Bangladesh exported goods to China worth US$ 808 million against imports worth US$ 9,645.80 million. It is an endemic complaint from foreign investors in particular about poor infrastructure and red-tapism.
DOMESTIC SCENARIO: So let us discuss the internal scenario of the country. There are 64 districts, apart from Dhaka metropolitan city. A district is a very important administrative unit. It may be mentioned that all subdivisions have been converted into districts with a view to bringing dynamism to the administration. There is no dearth of ministries/ divisions in the Secretariat. There are innumerable corporations/bodies for proper supervision of industrial units and services. The government agencies are over-flooded with senior executives of the rank of deputy secretaries and above.
There is no denying the fact that there has been tremendous development of roads. Most of the upazilas are accessible by road transports. Because of laying much importance to digitisation, information technology has made much headway. Now this riddle cannot be solved as to why in spite of adequate logistic support, development works relating to infrastructure facilities and other projects cannot gain momentum. Not a single example can be cited that a government project has been completed within a specified time. Starting from preparation and planning up to implementation, there are delays as if it is sacrosanct for a project.
Meanwhile, salaries of the government employees have been doubled keeping in mind that there will be decline of corruption and efficiency will rise. So far as corruption is concerned, no survey has yet been conducted. So it will be premature to comment. But so far as efficiency is concerned, it can be safely concluded that there has not been any improvement of the situation. Taking all other factors into consideration, it can be said that there has been deterioration. The nation cannot get rid of the sloth syndrome of the bureaucracy unless we get rid of impunity culture. Shenanigans who commit either political or/and financial crimes now easily find escape routes and extricate themselves from possible trial and punishment.
It is a matter of shame for the nation that we cannot spend foreign funds for development notwithstanding the fact that we are always raising demand for more and more aid for our country's development. Responsibility and accountability must be fixed at every stage of implementation of a project, be it from local or foreign fund. The delinquent must be punished without considering his position and power. The legacy of the bureaucracy is its anti-people psyche, sloth and inhibition. There has to be an end to this legacy. Of course the more there will be digitisation in every sphere of the administration the more will be transparency and increase of efficiency and speed. But above everything lies political will. State policy has to be very straight having no favour and partisan outlook. Enough time has been lost. It is a Herculean task to ascertain the cumulative loss caused by delays in implementing development projects. Such delays cannot be allowed to continue any further. Executives of all ranks should remember that they are service-providers, not masters of the people.