Five projects costing Tk1,266.13 crore were approved at the Ecnec meeting
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on Tuesday, directed the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) to make arrangements to send Bangladeshi migrants – who returned home because of the Covid-19 pandemic – back abroad after providing them skills-development training.
She gave the directive while discussing the revision of a stagnant project approved in 2016 to build technical training centres in 40 different upazilas.
The project was expected to be completed by June this year at a cost of Tk1,331.30 crore, but its tenure was extended by two years to June 2022. At the same time, the cost of the project increased to Tk1667.08 crore in June.
The project cost – as the work was not finished on schedule – rose by Tk335.78 crore, which is 25.22% higher than the original allocation.
Planning Minister MA Mannan revealed this at a press briefing at the National Economic Council conference centre in the capital after the virtual Ecnec meeting chaired by the prime minister. Members of the Planning Commission also gave details about the approved projects.
The planning minister said the Ecnec meeting approved five projects at a cost of Tk1,266.13 crore. All the projects' implementation costs will come from the government's funds.
Speaking about the technical training centre construction project, Mannan said many Bangladeshis are working abroad but their payment is low as they are low-skilled workers. "If they receive training for medium-skilled professions, it will be easier for them to get jobs and their salaries will also increase."
He said those returning from abroad will be given training as well as financial incentives so that they can go abroad again and earn more.
Abul Kalam Azad, a member of the Planning Commission, said once the project was completed, it would be possible to increase migrants' earnings by upgrading their skills. "Apart from that, the demand for skilled manpower in the country's factories will also be met."
Speaking about the reasons for revising the project, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment said construction could not be accelerated as extra time was needed for land selection and acquisition. "That happened as work began without land selection before the main project was approved."
It also claimed that the cost was increasing as work was estimated as per the 2018 rate schedule of the Public Works Department instead of the 2014 rate schedule.
The ministry said sand filling and boundary construction also cost extra money.
Ecnec approved the Development and Management of Hilsa Resources project at a cost of Tk246.28 crore; to increase Hilsa production through implementing laws for conservation of mother hilsa and jatka, and managing sanctuaries.
Under this project, training and financial assistance will be provided to create alternative employment opportunities for 30,000 families of fishermen who catch jatka and mother Hilsa. The project will create awareness of conservation of mother hilsa and jatka through the distribution of 10,000 legal nets among fishermen and extensive publicity.
While discussing this, the prime minister directed officials concerned to encourage fish farming in cages, the planning minister said.
Zakir Hossain, member of the Planning Commission, said the project would cover 134 upazilas in 29 districts.
The key goal is to increase Hilsa production by 13% from 5.33 lakh tonnes, he said.
Zakir said 13% of the total fish produced in the country is Hilsa.
"Also, 60% of the total Hilsa produced in the world comes from the waters of Bangladesh, " he added.
He said more than 1,000 campaigns would be conducted under the project to increase Hilsa production.
The planning minister said the prime minister had instructed that unnecessary roads not be built.
"She said the tendency to unnecessarily construct or widen roads in front of one's house should be eliminated. She gave the directive while approving the Tk376.56 crore Upgradation of Digpait-Sarishabari-Tarakandi Road to Proper Standard and Width project," he said.
The minister said the renovation of existing roads, rather than construction of new ones, should be done to protect agricultural land.
"Apart from that, the prime minister also directed that the financial and technical capacity of renovating existing roads be considered."
The meeting approved the Construction of 73 Composite/Modern Border Observation Posts for Border Guard Bangladesh in Border Areas project at a cost of Tk233.52 crore.
It also approved a project on setting up 25-bed peace shelters at a cost of Tk73.99 crore.