The first meeting of the Bangladesh-China joint working group is set to be held in Dhaka next month to come up with ways to expedite the implementation of 27 projects that China had agreed to fund in October 2016.
The move to form the committee was taken during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China in July this year with a view to identifying the reasons for the delays in China-funded projects and eliminating them.
China has so far disbursed only $981.36 million, which is less than 5 percent of the $20 billion promised during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Dhaka.
But before next month’s meeting, officials from the Economic Relations Division, Chinese embassy and the ministries concerned will meet today in Dhaka to set the agenda for the meeting next month.
At the meeting today Bangladesh may present 10 priority projects, said a finance ministry official.
The 10 priority projects include: the $1.16 billion Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway; establishment of a full-fledged TV station; balancing, modernisation, rehabilitation and expansion of public sector jute mills; and establishing digital connectivity.
Of the 27 projects that China had agreed to finance, five are at the implementation stage: the Padma Bridge rail link, Karnaphuli river tunnel, phase III of the Info-Sarkar project, installation of a single-point mooring with double pipeline in Maheshkhali and modernisation of telecom network for digital connectivity.
The loan agreements for all five projects involving $3.9 billion were signed between October 2016 and April last year, but so far there has been little disbursement of funds.
The signing of the loan agreement for the $689.35-million Karnaphuli river tunnel project took place in October 2016, and thus far only $194.81 million has been released.
Besides, in November 2017 the loan agreement for the $550.67-million single point mooring project was signed and only $82.73 million has been disbursed so far.
Only $44.94 million was released for the $224.96 million project on modernisation of telecom network for digital connectivity. The loan agreement on it was signed in April last year. In the same month, a loan agreement for the $2.67-billion Padma Bridge rail project was struck. And so far $533.58 million has been disbursed.
One project which saw fast disbursement is the phase III of the Info-Sarkar project. As of now, $125.50 million of the agreed $151.64 million has been released since the signing of the loan agreement in October 2017.
The officials of both the countries will discuss at length the Padma Bridge rail link and Karnaphuli tunnel projects in today’s meeting.
Some 30 percent of the total project cost of Tk 39,247 crore for the Padma Bridge rail link has so far been spent, said a railway ministry official.
There was a delay in the rail link project because of minor flaws in designs, but those now have been fixed, he added.
As of August, the financial progress of the Karnaphuli tunnel project is 38.42 percent and physical progress is 47.10 percent, he said.
Both sides had agreed to sign the loan agreements for $20 billion by 2020. But as things stand, the deadline will not be met, opening the window to reassess the necessity of the projects, said another finance ministry official.
“After the reassessment, next projects might be presented,” he added.
During the PM’s China tour, loan agreements involving $1.76 billion for three projects were signed.
Of the amount, $1.2 billion is for a project to expand and strengthen the power supply network under Dhaka Power Distribution Company.
Another loan agreement involving $280.49-million was struck as part of the $1.12 billion project to strengthen the power grid network under the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB).
There was another Chinese grant of $72.71 million for economic and technical cooperation between the two governments.
In total, three loan agreements involving $3.86 billion will be signed by this year.
Those include the remaining loan agreements for the PGCB projects and also that for the construction of Dhaka Ashulia Elevated Expressway involving $1.15 billion.