Communications lack new vision
Smooth communications directly boosted economic activities and development, yet the country would continue suffering for not having adequate infrastructure thanks to the government's inefficiency in implementing some major projects and taking a coordinated strategy.
The budget hardly offers anything to improve communications network and perennial traffic congestions in the capital and the major highways. Finance Minister AMA Muhith repeated what he said last two years. He mentioned some old and new projects, hoping their implementation would improve communications.
As part of new visions, Muhith proposed for a separate coordinating authority for traffic management in the capital but skipped the growing congestion in Chittagong city.
The minister also announced procurement of 300 double-deckers and 100 articulated buses to improve passenger services. However, the move might further increase the congestion as he said no new roads would be constructed in the city.
Of the old projects, upgrading the narrow Dhaka-Chittagong Highway into four lanes is vital. It will be opened to public early next year. Experts say the expanded highway will initially help ease the traffic, but movement of slow moving vehicles as well as shops and bazars will soon hamper smooth travel on the country's economic lifeline.
Expansion of the 16-kilometre Nabinagar-Chandra road is a glaring example of it as it faced regular congestion due to occupation of the road's two lanes by vehicles and vendors.
Besides, construction of metro rail and bus rapid transit in the capital, a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong, and the Padma bridge to connect the capital with the southern region will take three to five years.
A 20-year Railway Master Plan was formulated in 2013 under which 235 projects were taken. Implementation of which would require Tk 2.33 lakh crore.
However, allocation of Tk 7,717 crore proposed for the railway ministry does not match with the master plan at any cost.
Although allocation for railway's development has increased, but execution of the projects taken years ago is slow due to inadequate fund. The Indian dollar credit fund is being spent on buying railway engines, coaches and wagons, but the project for expansion of rail networks failed to see progress.
Of the rail projects, double-lining of Dhaka-Chittagong railway track has seen adequate headway, but rail communications would not begin through the Padma bridge after its planned opening in 2018.
Experts cast doubt over the Dhaka Elevated Expressway, which remains stalled even after the prime minister's inauguration of construction four years ago.
All the projects have rather been delayed by years, increasing cost.
Against this backdrop, the idea of fast-track projects came in 2014 in a bid to expedite execution of some mega projects including the Padma bridge and metro rail.
Prof Shamsul Hoque of civil engineering at Buet said the government must pay attention to make quality infrastructure and ensure fast mobility of vehicles to get benefit from expansion of highways.
“The government must have a plan for it and invest a large amount of money to execute the plan,” he told The Daily Star, expressing disappointment over the budget in communications and infrastructure sector.He also expressed his surprise at having seen no specific proposal and allocation for road safety and public transport development in the proposed budget.
Three flyovers were opened to public and construction of a couple others has been underway with a target to open those next year, but this piecemeal solution is not likely to help ease the capital's severe traffic congestion.
Experts have been suggesting a coordinated solution to improve the ever-deteriorating traffic chaos, but the budget has brought nothing to that end meaning the menace would continue eating up valuable work hour, fuel and gas every day.
Circular waterbus and railway services to transport people from one area to the other were a great idea, but the authorities failed to implement it properly.
Waterbus service was launched in 2010 and proved ineffective for inconvenient terminal facilities, irregular schedule, frequent engine fault and lack of publicity. On the other side, introduction of circular rail service is still a distant reality.
There is nothing new in the budget about improving water transport across the country other than mentioning the old initiatives to carry out dredging on 53 water routes and excavate Madaripur-Chormugria-Tekerhat-Gopalganj riverine route to improve navigability.
With the city streets being already crammed with around eight lakh motorised vehicles and about five modes of slow-moving transports like rickshaw and pushcart, and with an average 100 new buses, private cars and microbuses hitting the streets every day, the chaos on the roads is surely on the rise.