The government does not allow any unnecessary foreign trips of its officials, planning ministry high-ups said yesterday.
There is no scope for foreign tours under any project by forming an unholy alliance between planning ministry officials and project implementing entities, said Md Ashadul Islam, senior secretary of the planning division.
He made the comment when journalists raised questions on the approvals to unnecessary trips, during a briefing after a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec).
Under the land digitalisation project, a proposal was placed to set aside Tk 5 crore for foreign trips of officials but the planning commission reduced it to Tk 1.5 crore, said Zakir Hossain Akanda, a member of the commission.
A total of Tk 1.5 crore has been kept to gather practical knowledge from India, which digitalised its land records eight years ago, he said.
The budget has been included in the project as it is necessary now to go to India to learn the land digitalisation process, he said.
The demand for additional budget placed by the project implementing ministries is normally brought down by the commission at the project evaluation committee meeting, Akanda said.
For example, he said, the land ministry demanded Tk 500 crore for mouza and plot based national digital land zoning project. But the commission cut it to around Tk 300 crore.
The Ecnec approved the mouza and plot based national digital land zoning project involving Tk 337.60 crore.
The approval was given at the Ecnec meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a video conference from Gono Bhaban.
The land ministry will implement the project within June 2024. The project will cover 493 upazilas in 64 districts of the country and 57,346 mouzas in 4,562 unions.
Under the project, the ministry will prepare mouza and plot based digital land zoning maps and land use plan by dividing the land based on their quality into dedicated plots for agriculture, housing, commercial use, tourism, industrial development and others.
Besides, the project will provide training on zone-based land use and conduct public awareness campaigns and formulate a separate unit for activities related to activating land zoning.
Land disputes in rural areas will reduce significantly with the implementation of the project, said Planning Minister MA Mannan.
The land of the paternal grandmother of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was also grabbed illegally, he said.
However, it was recovered later, the minister said.
The Ecnec approved a revised project titled "Bangladesh Regional Inland Water Transport Project-1 (Excavation of Chittagong-Dhaka-Ashuganj and connected waterways and construction of ancillary facilities including terminals)" involving Tk 3,349.42 crore.
In the revised proposal, World Bank increased its assistance to Tk 3,052.80 crore from the original amount of Tk 2,880 crore while the government fund was reduced to Tk 296.62 crore from original Tk 320 crore.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority is implementing the project and it was scheduled to be completed by December 2025.
According to the project summary, the project has been revised due to division of works and service packages into different lots, changes to the total number of packages, inclusion of new items and increase in cost of certain packages.
There has also been changes in cost of various items, increase in US dollar exchange rate and extension of the project implementation period.
The planning commission in its recommendation said if the project was implemented, it would be possible to develop the capacity and security systems of the maritime corridor in the Chittagong-Dhaka-Ashuganj region.
This would enable transportation of passengers and goods by inland waterways and establish it as a sustainable sector.
The "Bhairab River Re-excavation (Phase II)" project involving Tk 237.60 crore and the "Removal of water-logging of Begumganj, Chatkhil, Senbagh and Sonaimuri upazila of Noakhali district" involving Tk 71.87 crore were also approved.
Four projects, including a revised one, worth Tk 697.45 crore were also given the go-ahead.
Of the total outlay, government financing amounted to Tk 623.75 crore and the rest Tk 182.60 crore would come as loans from foreign sources.