The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday approved 10 projects involving Taka 16,276.03 crore, including two projects related to emergency response and preparedness on novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to strengthen the country’s health system.
The approval came from the 23rd ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year (FY20) held at the NEC conference room in the city’s Sher-e-Banglanagar area with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, reports BSS.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined the meeting through videoconferencing from her official residence Ganobhaban.
Briefing the reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said they had placed 10 projects of seven ministries in the meeting.
“The total estimated cost of those 10 approved projects is Taka 16,276.03 crore. Of the cost, Tk 14,401.52 crore will come from the government of Bangladesh (GoB) portion while the rest Taka 1,881.97 crore as project assistance,” he added.
Four out of these 10 approved projects actually got approval earlier, Mannan said, adding: “But, we placed these four projects before the ECNEC meeting today for formal approval alongside six other projects.”
He said the two COVID-19 related projects are ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project’ involving Taka 1,127.52 crore, and ‘COVID-19 Response Emergency Assistance Project’ worth Taka 1,364.56 crore.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) under the Health Services Division will implement the two COVID-19 related projects from April 2020 to June 2023.The Planning Minister said although these two COVID-19 related projects were approved earlier, today’s meeting did not make any amendment to these two projects.
Mannan said during the approval of the two COVID-19 projects, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed the need for enhancing oxygen supply to hospitals and having ICU unit in every district hospital.
According to the Planning Commission, the main objectives of the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project’ are strengthening the health system and preparedness of health workers for COVID-19 surveillance, detection and diagnosis; enhancing the capacity and coverage of diagnostic laboratories; and increasing treatment scope for the patients by setting up Isolation Units and Critical Care Units in district hospitals.
The main operations of the project include expansion of microbiology laboratories including PCR in 21 institutes – 17 medical college hospitals, three infectious disease hospitals and one specialized hospital BITID, Chattogram; setting up a 20-bed isolation unit and a 5-bed critical care unit in every district sadar hospitals across the country; launching a 250-bed separate COVID-19 hospital at Mohakhali in the capital for frontline workers including physicians, nurses, health workers, government officials, police and Ansar; and setting up 16 medical centres in three international airports, eight domestic airports and three seaports for enhancing the capacity to detect COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Of the total project cost, Taka 850 will come from the World Bank as project loan, while Taka 277.52 crore from the GoB fund.
On the other hand, the COVID-19 Response Emergency Assistance Project was undertaken in a bid to strengthen the health system for facing COVID-19 and thus providing medical treatment to the patients; setting up modern microbiology laboratories including PCR for COVID-19 and other pandemics if those emerge in future; and enhancing the capacity of 17 medical college hospitals through recruitment of necessary manpower alongside ensuring isolation units and critical care units.
The main project operations include expansion of microbiology laboratories including PCR in 19 institutes – 10 medical college hospitals, five infectious disease hospitals and four special institutes, BSMMU, IPH, IEDCR and NILMRC in Dhaka; launching a 50-bed isolation centre and additional a 10-bed critical care unit/ICU in 17 medical college hospitals, and establishing medical centres in 26 land ports to detect infectious diseases.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing Taka 849.97 crore as loan to implement the COVID-19 Response Emergency Assistance Project while the rest Taka 514.59 crore will come from the state exchequer.
Besides, the ECNEC meeting approved four other fresh projects, while revised four old projects.
The other new projects are the 7th phase of the mosque-based child and mass education programme involving a cost of Taka 3,128.46 crore; Making crops production more profitable through innovation of agricultural machinery and suitable technology project with Taka 56 crore; Production, processing and distribution of good quality spice seeds project with Taka 60.50 crore; and Development of drainage system of polder 1, 2, 6-8 and extension of 6-8 in Satkhira district with Taka 475.26 crore.
Among the four revised projects, Primary Education Stipend Project-Phase III was revised for the 2nd time increasing its cost by Taka 6,843.28 crore; while the Distribution Network Expansion for 100 Percent Rural Electrification (Rajshahi, Rangpur, Khulna and Barishal divisions) project was revised for the first time enhancing the cost by Taka 1,587.99 crore.
The rest two revised projects are Distribution Network Expansion for 100 Percent Rural Electrification (Dhaka, Mymensingh, Chattogram and Sylhet divisions) (1st revised) Project with an additional cost of Taka 1,237.69 crore and Dasherkandi Sewage Treatment Plant Project with an increased cost of Taka 394.77 crore.
At the outset of the meeting, the ECNEC greeted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for getting international recognition over tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and recent super cyclone Amphan from prestigious US magazine ‘Forbes’ and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres respectively.
Forbes, an American business magazine, featured eight women global leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who “deserve to be recognised” for their efforts in dealing with COVID-19 challenges to reshape the future. Bangladesh, a country of some 161 million people, led by Sheikh Hasina, is no stranger to crises, the magazine wrote.
The UN Secretary-General in a statement commended the governments of Bangladesh and India for their life-saving efforts ahead of devastating cyclone Amphan, and for the effective relief efforts, wishing those survivors injured and affected by the disaster, a speedy recovery.