Big push for mega projects
The mega projects, whose completion are expected to raise Bangladesh's GDP by as much as 4 percent, got about 48 percent more allocation in the upcoming fiscal year, as part of the government's push to ensure their timely implementation.
Seven of the eight mega projects -- Padma bridge, Padma bridge rail link, Dhaka mass rapid transit line-6 (Metro Rail), Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail link, Rooppur nuclear power plant, Matarbari 1,200MW coal-fired power plant and the Payra deep seaport -- will get Tk 37,000 crore in fiscal 2021-22, in contrast to Tk 25,473.6 crore this fiscal year.
"Another important goal of the government will be to strive for timely implementation of all nationally important projects including mega projects in the infrastructure sector to sustain the higher growth rate," Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told the parliament in his budget speech.
After the Awami League government came to power in 2009, it took up several monumental development projects with the view to transforming the country's communication, transport and power infrastructure.
A total of 10 mega projects, which would have a substantial impact on the economy and wellbeing of the population, were singled out for fast-tracking.
And yet, the projects, for which thousands of crores were diverted over the past decade, are behind on their schedule.
If the uncertainty over their funding or complexities over their designs were solved, unforeseen events like the Gulshan café attack or the global coronavirus pandemic upended their flight path and led to cost escalations.
Work for almost all the projects was on recess for months last year as the coronavirus reined in the normal way of being. Just as work on the projects were taxing for take-off, on came the second wave of coronavirus cases.
And yet, the authorities are hopeful that some of the projects would be ready in fiscal 2021-22. If not in the fiscal year, it would be in the next calendar year.
Of them, the most-anticipated is the Padma multipurpose bridge project, which started in January 2009 with the view to linking the southwestern part of Bangladesh to the capital.
It has missed several deadlines but is likely to be ready for use in June next year -- at last, at thrice the original cost.
However, the mid-2022 inauguration is resting on another fast-track project: the Padma bridge rail link.
Under the project, a 169km rail line is being constructed from Dhaka to Jashore via the under-construction Padma bridge at the cost of Tk 39,246 crore.
The portion that goes via the Padma bridge must be laid out before the long-cherished structure is ready for the public, and as per project officials, it would be.
The Padma bridge will get Tk 3,500 crore and the rail link Tk 3,823 crore in the next fiscal year.
The Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Line-6 or MRT-6, the country's first metro rail system that is being built at a cost of Tk 21,985 crore, may be ready for use next year.
Although the deadline of the project is June 2024, the authority had a plan to run a portion of the metro rail from December this year. As of April, 63.3 percent of the project has been completed.
The deadline for the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail line is June next year. As of April, 59 percent of the work has been completed and project officials are hopeful of a 2022 completion or an early 2023.
A unit of the Rampal coal-fired power plant, another fast-track project, is likely to come into operation within next fiscal year, while the other three projects would take two to four years to come into operation.
But everything depends on how quickly the government can return the country to normalcy, which, in turn, rests on how quickly the virus is contained and how soon the government can scale up the vaccination programme.