Level-headed development targets
Pragmatism was the order of the day when the finance division sat down to draft the development budget for fiscal 2021-22.
While the overall budget would see the return of double-digit growth in size as in pre-pandemic times, the annual development programme not so much.
A Tk 246,066 crore ADP has been prepared, which is an increase of 9.2 percent from this year's original budget -- and Tk 38,699 crore less than what the ministries and divisions have sought.
In a populist move, the ADP size would invariably increase in double digits every year before the pandemic only for it to be quietly revised downwards on account of sluggish implementation.
But this time, it appears the government is resisting the urge to play to the gallery and is instead making funds available for development projects that are progressing at a brisk pace and at amounts they can absorb at best from a realistic viewpoint.
The biggest allocation, as in previous years, is going towards the Rooppur nuclear power, which is about 45 percent complete as of March and has been the top performer among the mega projects this year.
The project, which became mired in uncertainty following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the resulting Western sanctions against Russia, is progressing as per schedule: the first unit to open by 2024 and the second unit by 2025.
But the science and technology ministry would be taking it slow now as the auxiliary project for the installation of a power line to transmit electricity from Rooppur to the national grid is progressing at a snail's pace.
That project, which is being implemented with Indian loan, took off in 2018 and has seen only 12 percent financial progress as of March, according to the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh.
As a result, the Rooppur project would be getting Tk 13,395 crore in the upcoming fiscal year, down from Tk 18,426 crore originally this year. The allocation was revised down to Tk 14,836 crore.
The project is being constructed on a build-and-finance deal with Russian state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, which is responsible for 76 percent of global nuclear technology exports. No fund comes in from Russia but equipment and technology, whose values are counted as expenditure for setting up the nuclear plant.
Which is why the project was not hampered in any way by the SWIFT ban on Russia -- for now.
"Rosatom has sufficient resources and the necessary organisational flexibility to adapt to the new business environment," the company told The Daily Star in a written response.
The next highest allocations in the proposed ADP, which will be placed before the National Economic Council tomorrow for approval, will go towards the Matarbari deep sea port and power plant and the Padma rail link projects. They would get Tk 7,000 crore and Tk 5,800 crore respectively.
The Padma rail link project, which started on a slow note, is on great momentum, with rail movement up to Mawa expected by this year, ministry officials said.
As of March, it is about 55 percent complete.
The Dhaka metro rail project, which is about 81 percent complete, would get Tk 2,800 crore.
The project was originally allocated Tk 4,800 crore this year but was revised down to Tk 4,233 crore.
The metro rail may be opened to passengers up to Agargaon this year and fully by next year.
The Padma multipurpose bridge, which is scheduled to open to the public next month, will get Tk 2,023 crore to complete some related works like river training and others.
As of March, Tk 27,151 crore out of its total estimated cost of Tk 30,193 crore has been spent.
The Dohazari-Gundum rail line, which has seen 35 percent financial progress until March, is to get Tk 1,450 crore next fiscal year, which is Tk 25 crore from this year's original budget. Its allocation was slashed to Tk 933 crore and as of March, Tk 552 crore could be used.
The Payra deep sea port, another priority project of the government, will get Tk 513 core.
"We hope that the fast-track projects will be completed on time," said Mamun Al Rashid, a member of the Planning Commission.
A committee led by the principal secretary of the prime minister monitors every stage of the fast-track projects and intervenes if necessary, he said.
In the upcoming budget proposal, the government may allocate the highest Tk 35,842 crore, which is about 14.6 percent of the proposed ADP, for the local government division.
The second highest allocation of Tk 31,295 crore may be made for the road transport and highways division, which is 12.7 percent of the proposed ADP.
Among others, the energy division may get Tk 24,139 crore, the science and technology ministry Tk 16,011 crore and the health service division Tk 15,851 crore.