Ministries against holding back low-priority projects | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 23, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:42 PM, September 23, 2020

Ministries against holding back low-priority projects

Ecnec okays 5 projects including Tk 246cr for hilsa

Ministries and divisions have expressed dissatisfaction over a decision to put on hold implementation of low-priority projects, an official of planning ministry said.

The implementing ministries and divisions also opposed the move and expressed disappointment, the official said, seeking anonymity.

The implementing ministries and divisions are facing problem as they cannot pay bills to contractors since the finance ministry is not disbursing funds against the projects, said the official.

The finance ministry is, however, disbursing the salaries and allowances for the officials of the projects, he said.

"It may delay the implementation of the projects and the cost of the projects may increase," said Md Ashadul Islam, senior secretary to the planning division.

Islam made the comments while briefing reporters after the meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) yesterday.

In July, the finance ministry decided to put on hold the implementation of low-priority development projects involving Tk 40,000 crore to free up funds for the productive sectors.

The amount accounts for about 20 per cent of the Tk 205,145 crore annual development programme for the current fiscal year.

The government is being forced to delay the execution of the low-priority projects amid the drastic fall in revenue collection caused by the coronavirus pandemic and as part of its belt-tightening measures.

The finance division has formulated the criteria for the ministries to identify the low-priority projects.

The criteria would render a project to be of low-priority if it is slow-moving, has completion deadline of six to seven years and is construction-related. The argument is that if the projects are pushed back by six months or a year, it would not cause much of a problem for the country.

The projects under the ADP have been categorised as high, medium and low-priority to ensure the best use of limited resources, the finance division said in a circular in July.

If the use of funds for a medium-priority project is deemed very necessary, the ministries and division would spend money under their consideration. However, avoidable expenses must be identified, it said.

A finance ministry official said the arrangement was temporary and was brought in due to the shortfall in revenue collection. The decision will be reviewed within a short time.

The Ecnec yesterday approved five projects, including the first revision of a project to establish 40 technical training centres in 40 upazilas and one Institute of Marine Technology in Chattogram at a combined cost of Tk 2,597.40 crore.

The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) is implementing the project to create jobs for the unemployed by developing skills through training. The project will help increase the productivity of industries and improve product quality.

According to the revised deadline, the project will be implemented by June 30, 2022. The cost of the project increased to Tk 1,667.07 crore from the Tk 1,331.29 crore initially set aside.

The implementing entity demanded additional funds as the land requirement was not included when the project was approved.

The cost of the project rose because of the delay in land selection and acquisition. The expenditure is increasing as the Public Works Department estimated the construction work as per the rate of 2014 instead of 2017.

The Ecnec approved the "Hilsa Resource Development and Management" project involving Tk 246.28 crore to increase the production of the popular fish and protect mother hilsa and hilsa fries.

The project includes running and management of six sanctuaries, creating alternative jobs for 30,000 fishing families and providing valid nets to 10,000 fishermen. The Department of Fisheries will implement the project.

The meeting approved incorporating 25 beds for the elderly in eight shelters for childreninvolving Tk 73.98 crore. The facilities will accommodate neglected elderly people besides children.

The homes would be constructed in Tungipara of Gopalganj, Lalmonirhat Sadar, Shambhuganj in Mymensingh, Sunamganj Sadar, Maijdee in Noakhali, Baya in Rajshahi, Maheshwarpasha in Khulna and Sagardi in Barishal.

The two other new projects are "Upgrading Digpait-Sarishabari-Tarakandi Road of Jamalpur" involving Tk 376.56 crore and the construction of the Border Guard of Bangladesh's 73 modern observation posts in border areas for Tk 233.52 crore.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and Planning Minister MA Mannan joined the meeting through videoconferencing from Gono Bhaban while other Ecnec members connected from the NEC auditorium.

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