More project delays, more public suffering
That over a third of the 1,543 government projects missed their deadline last fiscal year speaks volume about the poor state of governance in Bangladesh. Shockingly, the number of projects that missed their deadline in the 2021-22 fiscal year is 63 percent higher than that in the previous year, which shows that the excuse that Covid has been slowing down the projects is only partly justifiable – and that mismanagement, corruption, and perhaps outright incompetence on the authorities' part are the main reasons. But none of these reasons lessen the burden that it puts on the people and the nation, nor are they acceptable.
Project delay in Bangladesh comes hand-in-hand with cost escalations, and by massive amounts at that. These costs have to be paid out of the public exchequer – i.e. taxpayers' pockets. At a time when the government has been so vocal in telling people to practise austerity, that huge amounts of public funds are getting wasted by the authorities year in, year out is a grave insult to those they proclaim to represent.
The prime minister, on numerous occasions, gave directives to stop wastage of public resources. But what has the government actually done but pay lip service to stop such corruption and wastage? Has anyone been held accountable for the non-stop delays and cost escalations? None whatsoever. Instead, deadline extensions are handed out like they are nothing. What precedent does that set? That those entrusted with executing these schemes can simply continue to drain public resources, while the public gets denied the benefits they are promised via these projects?
Most of the delayed projects involve construction of roads, bridges and rail lines, while others are technical assistance projects. The failure to complete them on time leads to other external costs, such as traffic congestion, waterlogging and pollution. And the public has to bear them too. That no one in the administration has to answer for this shows the lack of sympathy and legitimate concern that the authorities have for the people.
When we compare this reality with the government's proclamation of how fast Bangladesh is developing, all the talk seems hollow. Without transparency and accountability in governance, Bangladesh's development, in its truest sense, will remain incomplete. Therefore, we once again call on the government to abandon its habit of doing nothing when it comes to the failure of its members and different arms to execute projects on time and within their cost estimates. And to hold individuals responsible, which is the only thing that can change this culture of project delays.