The government's development projects have remained suspended for the last four months of the current fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic. To recoup the losses, almost all mega projects have been given adequate allocation in the budget proposed for FY2020-21.
But allocations have been made for all projects instead of only the essential ones. Without focusing on recovery, a traditional development budget has been proposed.
Tk1,300 crore will be allocated for the MRT Line-5 project (metro rail from Savar's Hemayetpur to Bhatara) in the next fiscal year. For MRT-1 (from Dhaka airport to Kamalapur, and from Natun Bazar to Purbachal), the amount is Tk791 crore.
The construction work of these two new mega projects has not started yet. If their start could be delayed by a year, Tk2,091 crore could have been saved and it would be a relief in the face of possible revenue shortage, possible reduction in bilateral aid and increased expenses in the health sector.
Experts said power projects should be delayed and the money should be spent in other sectors as supply exceeds demand.
The Rooppur Nuclear Power Project is going to get the highest allocation of Tk15,691 crore in the budget.
There is an allocation of Tk43,198 crore for 11 projects, which is 21.31 percent of the Tk202,721 crore Annual Development Programme (ADP).
In the revised ADP of the current fiscal year, Tk36,222 crore has been allocated in these projects. So, these projects are getting an extra allocation of Tk6,976 crore or 19.26 percent.
But experts think even though allocations have increased, the future of these projects depends on implementation capability and the pandemic situation.
They said foreign consultants for big projects had already left the country. Most of the construction sites have no workers. Project implementation will not progress if the coronavirus situation does not improve.
Professor Dr Shamsul Hoque of the civil engineering department of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) told The Business Standard that extra allocation does not mean acceleration of project implementation.
"Work will not start if workers do not feel safe at sites. Hygiene rules have to be ensured at sites to make workers believe that they can safely join work. This also needs extra allocation," he said.
"After you start implementation, it is not possible to suspend a project. Otherwise, the quality of construction materials wanes, and they are even stolen sometimes. Also, if suspended for a long time, the implementation cost and time increase. In that sense, there is no alternative to increasing project allocation," he said.
He also said, "This is not the time to start a new project. It will be difficult to even finish the existing projects. So, financing new projects will be difficult. If we want to do that, there will be problems in education, health and social security sectors."
Big projects are behind the target because of many reasons, such as negligence and land acquisition complexities. They were further delayed as work remained suspended for four months due to the pandemic.
Experts have discouraged extra allocations in unnecessary projects because of a fall in revenue collection and demand for extra expenses in the health sector. But the Rooppur power plant project is getting the biggest allocation as a single project.
The Matarbari power project is getting Tk3,670 crore after Tk444.5 crore was added to this fiscal year's revised allocation.
Padma bridge project not to finish in time
The Padma bridge project, which was supposed to be finished by June next year, is not going to be finished in time.
Almost Tk1,000 crore will remain unspent as 71.50 percent of this year's revised allocation of Tk4,015 crore has been spent until May.
Of the Tk30,193.39 crore project, Tk7,899.39 crore will have to be spent additionally in a year. The project cannot be finished within the tenure as Tk5,000 crore has been allocated in budget.
The project's cost was estimated at Tk10,161.75 crore in 2007. The cost has already gone up three times. It is feared that the cost will increase again because of extension of tenure.