- Only Tk5,458 crore from Tk12,960 in foreign aid was spent in July-September
- Govt to cut foreign funding in the revised ADP
- ERD started work on formulating the revised ADP
- Civil aviation and tourism ministry could not spend a single penny from its Tk2,500 crore foreign assistance allocated for three projects
Not a single penny has been spent on the Science and Technology Ministry's Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project from its foreign allocation of Tk12,960 crore under the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
Besides, no money from foreign assistance was released in the first three months for the projects of several ministries, such as the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, the Post and Telecommunications ministry, the Shipping Ministry and the Land Ministry.
According to the Implementation Monitoring Evaluation Division (IMED), all government ministries and divisions spent only Tk5,458 crore from foreign aid in July-September for the implementation of development projects, which was only 7.78% of the total foreign allocation of Tk70,502 crore.
Under these circumstances, the Economic Relations Division (ERD) has taken an initiative to trim foreign funding from the ADP as there have been delays in implementing the projects from the beginning.
In this regard, the ERD has already sent letters to all ministries and divisions, asking them to send proposals for revised allocations for their projects for the rest of the financial year.
The letter said foreign funds will be allocated in the revised ADP after reviewing the implementation progress in the first three months of the fiscal year. The ERD will hold a series of meetings with all ministries and divisions in the second week of November, it added.
According to sources at the Planning Ministry, the process of revising the ADP usually begins in December of each financial year. This time, the ERD has already started work on formulating the revised ADP.
Reviewing the quarterly report prepared by the IMED on the progress of ADP implementation, it was found that in the first three months of the current fiscal year, some Tk17,344 crore or 8.06% was spent from the total ADP amounting to Tk214,611 crore.
During the same period in the last fiscal year, the ADP expense was Tk17,344 crore from the total outlay of Tk215,114 crore.
Although the implementation rate remained the same till September in the two fiscal years, this time the expenditure fell by Tk43 crore.
The ADP expenditure from the government's fund of Tk134,643 crore stood at Tk17301 crore, which is 8.37% of the allocation. For the total ADP implementation, the government needs to spend Tk197310 crore in the next nine months.
Economists believe that it is not possible to ensure quality work due to sluggish implementation at the onset of the project, followed by additional spending in the end, and they think this creates a concern over a waste of government money.
When contacted, IMED Secretary Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty told The Business Standard that the pandemic slightly hampered development projects. There were also some issues with consultancy service providers and foreign development partners.
He said letters on behalf of the Planning Minister were sent to all ministries and departments at the beginning of the fiscal year. The IMED also held a series of meetings, did field inspections and videoconferencing with the Deputy Commissioners.
He thinks the measures will ramp up project implementation in the days ahead.
Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office, said the pandemic has changed government priorities and the ADP implementation progress should be evaluated according to the new parameters.
He said priority projects may face a funding crisis if the revised ADP is based just on implementation. Additional allocations should be made for health, social security, rural infrastructure, education and economic recovery projects, considering the pandemic-led crises.
An analysis of the IMED report shows that though three projects of the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry received Tk2,500 crore in foreign assistance, those projects could not spend a single penny in the three months of this fiscal year.
In meantime, the Tk767.17 crore allocation of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology also remained unspent. The Shipping Ministry is yet to open its purse with Tk114.94 crore foreign assistance.
The Land Ministry too could not spend a single penny after taking an allocation of Tk49.52 crore.
When contacted, Mizanur Rahman, additional secretary (Administration, Tourism and Planning) to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, said no money from foreign aid was released in the first quarter as not much work progress was made.
The foreign fund will be released when work picks up pace, he said, adding that taking this issue into consideration, they will try to keep foreign funding in the revised ADP intact even if the government's allocation is reduced.
A large portion of foreign aid to his Ministry will come from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). A proposal will be made to the ERD to not cut Jica's allocation, considering loan conditions and the priorities of the projects, he said.