As the Japanese government has prohibited its nationals from returning to Bangladesh during the pandemic, the work on the section from Agargaon to Motijheel remains held up. Work on the other sections is in progress, maintaining the health and hygiene regulations.
At the moment the government needs more funds for health and social security. Some larger projects can be delayed. Allocations on these projects can be curbed and their pace can be slowed. Then again, some projects need to be accelerated to revive the economyEconomist Zahid Hossain
Managing director of the Dhaka Mass Transport Company Limited (DMTCL), MAN Siddique, said that even if the coronavirus pandemic lasts for six months, we will be able to manage. But it will be difficult if it continues any longer than that. The use of technology is being increased to step up the pace of work.”
Another priority project of the country, Padma bridge, has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. Work is slow and there was only 2 per cent progress in the months from April to June this year, with an expenditure of only Tk 2 billion (Tk 200 crore).
Till the end of June, about 80 per cent of the work on the bridge was complete. In March it had been 78 per cent. Around Tk 240 billion (Tk 24,000 crore) has been spent on the project. In the 2019-20 fiscal, Tk 5,371 was allocated for the project, but this was later cut down to Tk 40 billion (Tk 4,000 crore).
The Chinese engineers could not rejoin the project after the coronavirus outbreak and many of the local workers also did not join work in fear of the virus. This has slowed down speed on the project. It was scheduled to be complete in June next year. However, the project director informed Prothom Alo that an assessment of the project will be carried out after the pandemic subsides and then the project term may be extended.
Other priority projects delayed too
Eight other priority projects of the government have also been stalled due to coronavirus. Economists feel that in consideration of the economic crisis induced by the pandemic, the government should reconsider the allocations of some for the mega projects.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, economist Zahid Hossain said at the moment the government needs more funds for health and social security. Some larger projects can be delayed. Allocations on these projects can be curbed and their pace can be slowed. Then again, some projects need to be accelerated to revive the economy.
He said that the Padma bridge and the metro rail projects could be accelerated with increased allocations. These were important for the economy and much progress had already been made on the projects. On the other hand, as there was no power crisis in the country, the Rooppur nuclear power plant project could be delayed.
In the last week of June a meeting was held at the prime minister’s office to review the priority or fast track projects. Directives were issued to take forward work on 10 of the fast track projects even amid the pandemic. Progress on some of the projects was highlighted at the meeting.
Rooppur nuclear power plant
Work on Rooppur nuclear power plant, the country’s largest project, progressed only 1 per cent during the three months of coronavirus. Till May, only 25 per cent of the project had been completed. This Tk 1,130 billion ( Tk 113,000 crore) project is scheduled to be complete by December 2025.
Railway track on Padma bridge
Only 30 per cent of progress has been made on the railway track for the Tk 392.46 billion (Tk 39,246 crore) Padma bridge project. Land acquisition is still not complete. The project term is up till 2024.
Rampal thermal power plant
The project term for the Rampal thermal power plant ended in June this year, but only 50 per cent of it is complete. It is more or less certain that the term and the cost of the Tk 160 billion (Tk 16,000 crore) project will be increased.
Matabari thermal power plant
There is three years left for the completion of the Tk 360 billion (Tk 36,000 crore) Matabari thermal power plant, but so far only 30 per cent of the work has been done in the past 6 years. It began in 2014.
Matabari integrated development project
Work has not even begun on the Tk 177.77 billion (Tk 17,777 crore) Matabari integrated development project.
Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway route
Work on the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway route had been held up after the outbreak of coronavirus, but work has now resumed on a limited scale. This Tk 180 billion (Tk 18,000 crore) project progressed only 26 per cent in the last 10 years. It is scheduled to be completed by June 2022.
Payra port construction and operation
Two separate projects of Payra port construction and operation are on the fast track list. Around Tk 73 billion (Tk 7,300 crore) is being spent on these projects. However, coronavirus has brought the projects to a standstill.
Though the project term ended in June, only two thirds of the work has been completed. And only 3 per cent of the work has been completed on another terminal for the port.
* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir