New projects to please voters

Jahangir Shah . Dhaka | Update:

Prime minister and chairman of ECNEC Sheikh Hasina chaired the 9th ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year held at the NEC conference room in the capital’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area on 9 October, 2018. Photo: PIDThe government is hastily approving development projects one after another ahead of the general elections, apparently to please the voters, despite these projects not being in the Annual Development Programme (ADP).

In the last three months, a total of 126 projects costing Tk 1.12 trillion were passed in the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).

Almost 100 per cent of these projects would be funded from other sources as they were not in the ADP.

ECNEC meetings are being held thick and fast to approve those populist projects. In the past week, two ECNEC meetings were held. In Tuesday’s meeting, 20 projects were okayed.

In an unprecedented move, ECNEC sat for another meeting on Thursday, with 17 more projects getting the nod in the meeting.

As many as 26 more projects are being lined up to be okayed, too.

Members of parliament and ministers are in a frenzy to lay foundation stones of those populist projects, to win the hearts of the voters. The projects include construction of roads, bridges, educational institutions and mosques and temples.

Asked about these projects, former finance adviser to a caretaker government AB Mirza Azizul Islam raised doubt over the feasibility of proper implementation of the projects.

He said such projects are passed just to please the voters. Once inaugurated, these projects generally get stalled and voters or politicians lose their interest on them.

Aziz thinks, as these projects would not get enough outlay from the ADP, it would be impossible to finish the projects in time and within the initial stipulated budget.

Planning commission sources said 10 ECNEC meetings were held from July to 10 October. Five of them were held in last month alone where 83 projects got approval while 37 projects worth Tk 450 billion got ECNEC nod in the last week.

Asked about so many projects before the election, planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told journalists after Thursday's meeting that the government is spending more to continue the growth trend.

The growth generally slows down in the election year as private investment decrease, he added.

Projects could be passed as routine work after declaration of the polls schedule. However, the government would not go beyond its power stipulated by the electoral law.

Planning ministry sources said the populist projects include construction of madrasas by the MPs. On 11 September, a project worth almost Tk 60 billion was passed in ECNEC. Under the project, MPs would construct at least six madrasa buildings in their constituencies.

Another project of repairing the roads in 180 upazilas got approval on 9 October. Under the project, 2,210 kilometers of upazila roads and 495 kilometers of union roads would be repaired .

Another project is building 5,000 flats for slum dwellers of the cities. The Tk 8.26 billion project includes building two-room flats in 11 city corporations and 24 municipalities.

In the current fiscal year, Tk 1.80 trillion was approved for 1452 projects that are there in the ADP.

With more and more projects getting ECNEC nod, they will need more budget to be disbursed. There are 1,338 unapproved projects in ADP already.

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