Fresh Lockdown

Fast-track mega projects may face delay

Hasibul Aman

14 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The fast-track mega projects are feared to face further delay due to the fresh lockdown as the project work could not fully resume after last year’s corona lockdown for the scarcity of foreign experts and staff. 

The government’s eight top priority projects, including Padma Bridge, managed to spend less than one-third of the allocated money under ADP after the first half of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Total ADP allocation against these eight fast-track projects was Tk 395.77 billion in FY21, but only Tk 126.32 billion or 31.91 per cent of the money could be spent during the July-January period, according to the fast-track projects progress report of the Economic Relations Division (ERD). 

“Because of Covid-19 impacts, expenditure against megaprojects remained low as they are running with less number of foreign workers and consultants,” IMED Secretary Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty said.

At the very outset of the Covid-19, many foreign project staffers left the country and have not fully returned to work after a long pause, he explained, adding that this led the government to curtail some allocation in the revised ADP.

Even though some projects have gained pace recently, their work can face a fresh setback by the onslaught of a new wave of coronavirus, he feared. 

“The mega projects will definitely face negative impacts of the fresh wave of Covid-19. If corona infection keeps rising, it will create panic among the project workers,” commented Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank’s Dhaka office.

Keeping the projects running with maintaining social distance will be problematic, while foreigners will get frightened in performing their regular work and experts won’t be willing to go out of Dhaka, he said.

Besides, the collection of project materials and equipment from abroad will be hampered severely.

All these things will eventually slow the projects’ work further, the noted economist explained. 

The Padma Bridge project was supposed to be complete by June 2021 after a number of time extensions.          

The Bridges Division has sought two years more time until June 2023 for the Padma Bridge project as the project work has been hampered due to Covid-19 impacts that created a dearth of foreign workers on the project site.

In the original ADP this fiscal year, Tk 50 billion was allocated against the top priority project, but only Tk 11.10 billion was spent until January --- which was only 22.20 per cent of the allocation.

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission has curtailed Tk 29 billion from the original allocation in the revised ADP.

The project officials said they wanted to complete the scheme by June this year, but they had to face some work loss because of Covid-19. The Tk 219.85 billion metro rail project was supposed to be complete by 2024. The project managed to spend only Tk 9.95 billion or 17.96 per cent till January out of Tk 55.43 billion ADP allocation.

Its work has been put to a halt for a long time after Japanese experts left the country amid the fear of coronavirus. Recently, the first set of train reached the country from Japan, but the project authorities had to conduct a third-party inspection in Japan for the delivery.   

Similarly, Rooppur nuclear power plant project lost over Tk 55.24 billion allocations from Tk 156.91 billion original sanctions. Tk 45.72 billion or 29.13 per cent was spent on the project till January.  The Japan-assisted Tk 359.84 billion Matarbari coal power plant project is moving faster to meet June 2023 deadline. Tk 19.18 billion or 52.23 per cent of Tk 36.72 billion ADP allocation could be spent.  Similarly, the China-financed Padma rail link project is also moving fast as it could spend Tk 22.25 billion or 60.37 per cent of Tk 36.85 billion original yearly allocations. As a result, its allocation has been raised to Tk 54.55 billion in the RADP.

Rampal 1,320MW coal power plant project is running slow. It could spend Tk 13.18 billion or 29.36 per cent till January out of Tk 44.87 billion original allocations. 

Pyra deep seaport project was supposed to come into operation after June this year. The project could spend Tk 1.16 billion or 25.11 per cent ADP money against its yearly allocation of Tk 50 billion. Its allocation has increased to Tk 6.52 billion.

Dohazari-Ramu-Cox’s Bazar-Ghundum rail line project is supposed to be complete by June 2022. The project managed to spend Tk 3.79 billion 25.17 per cent out of Tk 15 billion ADP allocation in the period under review. Tk 5.10 billion has been curtailed from the original allocation.