Six of the 10 large ministries and divisions' expenditures in the first half of 2017-18 were lower than a year earlier, unusual for an election year when the incumbent tends to go all guns blazing to impress the electorate.
The biggest slump was witnessed in the railways ministry: between the months of July and December last year its expenditure was Tk 87 crore in contrast to Tk 2,400 crore a year earlier, according to a finance ministry report placed in the parliament on Wednesday.
Contacted, a finance division official said the low expenditure by the railways ministry could be down to reporting gap. The ministry might have spent but they are yet to be accounted in the official statistics.
The health service division's spending declined 25.7 percent, followed by higher education division at 21.9 percent, primary and mass education ministry at 18.8 percent, and public safety division at 18.7 percent.
The agriculture ministry's expenditure shrunk 3.9 percent during the period.
The other four ministries and divisions had bumped up their expenditure in the first half of the fiscal year: road transport and highways division (73 percent), power division (47.2 percent), defence service division (30.3 percent) and local government division (10.8 percent).
Total expenditure in the first six months of the fiscal year was at Tk 102,957 crore, up 7.8 percent year-on-year.
In the first half of fiscal 2016-18, expenditure had risen 24.7 percent from a year earlier.
The sluggish budget implementation on an election year can be blamed on the slow progress of many of the mega projects. Initially, some of the projects faced some problems that slowed down their implementation in the first half, said a finance ministry official.
“But, they will get momentum in the second half of the fiscal year,” he added.
This fiscal year's budget is Tk 400,267 crore: Tk 246,936 crore is the revenue budget and Tk 153,331 crore the development budget.
In the parliament, the finance minister in a written speech said there was no budget deficit in the second half of the fiscal year.
Rather, there was a surplus of Tk 237 crore. In the same period last fiscal year, the deficit was Tk 6,444 crore, he added.