Why public money wasted under pressure of MPs-ministers

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Constructing infrastructures without specific plans have become a 'normal' phenomenon of development activities in Bangladesh. This trend has spiked significantly in almost all sectors including communication, education and health in recent years. In most of the cases, ministers and lawmakers are influencing to have such projects approved for their own constituencies. They are more interested in building infrastructures than delivering services.

A report by Prothom Alo on the negligence in providing services after constructing infrastructures in the health sector revealed that 233 health complexes constructed at various times are lying unused. Among them, there are 58 establishments under the Health Services Division and 175 establishments under the Medical Education and Family Welfare Division.

Public Works Department and Health Engineering Department have constructed these buildings. Although they handed over some 198 buildings constructed in the last seven to eight years, no one knows when those will start operation.

Prothom Alo correspondents visited such establishments in Manikganj, Keraniganj, Barguna and Daudkandi and found out a very disappointing picture. Although the 20-bed hospital in Keraniganj was inaugurated 16 years ago, medical services could not be started there even for a day. Miscreants stole bricks and stair railings from the abandoned hospital. The upazila health officer said that the hospital is located in an isolated place far from the locality. Building hospital in such a place reflects the political consideration behind it rather than providing health services.

There are three big buildings lying unused in Saturia, Hijuli and Nayakandi in Manikganj, the current health minister's constituency. Medical Assistant Training School, Institute of Health Technology and Regional Population Training Institute were built during his tenure, but lacked workforce and logistics to run them.

Prothom Alo recently published several reports on unplanned buildings and infrastructures of education sector lying unused. Constructions of roads and bridges also often makes headlines. It seems all arrangements are going on to waste public money by any means in all sectors.

People concerned in the health sector say that these facilities are built at the will of the individuals many a time. Ministers and Members of parliament give Demi Official (DO) letters for setting up institutions in their areas. Later they seek approval using influence. But due to lack of necessary workforce and equipment, operations of these facilities could not be launched. On the one hand, a huge amount of money is being wasted due to building institutions by exerting influence or applying pressure and on the other hand, there are no accommodation facilities for physicians in many upazilas.

The disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of healthcare facilities in Bangladesh is evident. People of this country have to spend 68.5 per cent from their own pockets to get healthcare. The allocation for health sector in the budget has been stuck at 5.5 per cent of GDP for a long time. According to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) the position of the health sector is sixth in terms of corruption. The question is, unplanned construction or wastage of public money is in whose interest?

We must come out of the bad culture of wasting tax payers' money by constructing unplanned structures. Those involved in wasting public money through political influence should be held accountable. It is necessary to list the health facilities on priority basis and make arrangements to open them. Citizens cannot be deprived of services in any way.