Fast-Track Projects: Debt repayment a worry now
After the Awami League government came to power in 2009, it took up several gigantic development projects with a view to transforming the country's communication and transport infrastructure.
Later, more mega projects were added to the list, especially in the power and energy sector. The government poured thousands of crores of taka, sourced mostly from foreign loans, into the projects over the years.
But the cost and deadlines of the projects were revised multiple times amid poor planning, uncertainty over funding, and the Covid pandemic.
However, people are set to benefit from the initiatives, as some of the structures will become usable in the new fiscal year, starting from July 1.
It will begin with the inauguration of Padma Bridge, the country's longest bridge, on June 25. The country's first metro rail is expected to be partially operational in December.
The Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Rail Link project and a unit of the Rampal Power Plant project could be ready in the first half of 2023.
As four of the eight fast-track projects near completion, the budgetary allocation for them is set to come down significantly in the new budget.
Similarly, the physical work of several other new major projects is set to begin in the next fiscal year, with some ongoing projects finally gaining momentum, prompting the government to divert more funds to the projects.
The construction of the country's first underground metro rail, known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-1, another metro line MRT Line-5 (northern route), the Dhaka-Sylhet highway expansion project and the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project is likely to kick off in FY23.
Now, the challenge for the government is to make the most of the mega structures because the debt repayment of some of the projects will begin in a few years.
It will also need to speed up the physical work of the ongoing projects and put funds in the others.
The size of the annual development programme for FY23 has been fixed at a record Tk 246,066 crore, even though the country is facing crises from the fallout of the Russian-Ukraine war and the pandemic.
The proposed ADP has increased by 9.2 percent compared to what it was in the original budget for the fiscal year 2021-22.
While revealing the new budget at parliament, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, "Overall implementation progress of the mega projects until March 2022 stands at 68.60 percent."
The Padma Bridge, Metro Rail, Karnaphuli Tunnel, and elevated expressway from Dhaka Airport to Kutubkhali near Jatrabari will be open to traffic soon, he said.
"Completion of several other major projects, including Payra Seaport, Matarbari Deep Seaport and Rampal Power Station will add a new dimension to the progress of the country," he added.
The implementation of the low-priority projects will slow down while high and medium priority projects will pick up the pace.
Seven of the eight fast-track projects -- Padma Bridge, Padma Bridge Rail Link, MRT Line 6, Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail link, Rooppur nuclear power plant, Matarbari 1,200MW coal-fired power plant and preparatory works for the Payra deep seaport -- will get Tk 33,355 crore in FY23, Tk 2,434 crore less than the revised allocation this fiscal year.
Except for the Matarbari power project, allocation for all six projects declined in the next FY.
On the other hand, allocation for MRT Line-1, MRT-Line 5, Dhaka-Sylhet 4-lane project, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge over the Jamuna, Expansion of Dhaka airport project will more than double compared to the current fiscal year.
These projects will get Tk 19,795 crore, up from Tk 8,411 crore, according to documents.
The Bangabandhu Tunnel under the Karnaphuli in Chattogram are expected to open this December. These two projects will get large sums.
But, two major projects of Bangladesh Railway -- Joydebpur-Ishwardi double line and Akhaura-Sylhet rail expansion -- involving around Tk 30,000 crore were approved more than three years ago. But the projects fell into uncertainty over funding. The Joydebpur-Ishwardi project will get only Tk 47 crore while the other will not get any allocation.