EditorialProthom Alo illustration

easonableThose involved with the planning and implementation of government projects seems to have already made the assumption that starting the project on time isn’t a part of any of their duties and responsibilities. Otherwise, why would the deadline and budget of all the government projects, except a very few, be extended time and again? Inefficiency, negligence and mismanagement – be it whatever, it would not be unusual for this to have any corruption link.

The problem is even worse in the case of two projects of the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation under the authorities of the industries ministry. The two projects are -- the Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Project and Chhatak Cement Factory.

The deadline and the project cost have increased several times in both the cases. The construction cost for the first one rose to Tk 155 billion (15,500 crore) while the second one cost Tk 9 billion (900 crore). It hasn’t been possible to start operations of these two factories due to various reasons including the issue of gas supply.

What’s most worrying is that even before the urea fertiliser factory goes into production, loan installments are being paid for that. To set up the factory, commercial loans had been taken at a high interest rate.

When the economy is under huge pressure for the dollar crisis and the dwindling foreign reserve, paying installments for a factory that hasn’t gone into production yet is undoubtedly putting an extra pressure on the economy.

Prothom Alo reported that the ‘Ghorasal Polash Fertiliser Factory’ project was taken up back in 2018 by merging Ghorasal and Polash fertilizer factories together. At first, the cost was estimated at Tk 104 billion (10,460 crore) but the final cost rose up to Tk 155 billion (15,500 crore).

Where the annual demand of urea fertiliser in Bangladesh stands at 2.6 million tonnes (26 lakh), only one million (10 lakh) tonne is produced in the country.

Since the new factory has a production capability of 920,000 tonnes, this project is undoubtedly a commendable initiative to cut the import-dependency of urea fertilizer. But where’s the supply of the 72 million cubic feet of gas required daily to run the factory?

Because, one of BCIC’s four urea fertiliser factories, Jamuna had to be kept shut to supply the amount of gas required to run the new factory on trial basis. None of the BCIC, Titas Gas authorities or Ghorasal Polash Fertilizer Factory authorities could come up with a reasonable answer about the gas supply.

Natural gas is a notable source of the fuel and raw material required for urea fertilizer production. Then what’s the reasonable explanation for setting up a factory without ensuring the supply of gas? In the case of the power plants we have already witnessed huge amounts of public money being wasted because of the unplanned construction without ensuring the fuel sources.

Though it was planned that 40 per cent of the fertiliser produced from the factory would be transported by railways, the work of setting the rail line hasn’t been started yet. So, what could be more unfortunate than the fact that despite constructing such a huge factory with a massive cost, it failed to go into proper production?

The case of the newly-constructed Chhatak Cement Factory also shows that the deadline of the project costing Tk 6.67 billion (667 crore) has been extended from three years to seven years. Plus, the project cost has also been doubled.

Though the factory equipped with novel technology is all ready to go into production, uncertainties have been created regarding when it will start production over the complications concerning the issues of gas lines being set, stones being imported from India and ropeway being installed for the import.

Start operations at Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Factory and Chhatak Cement Factory fast by ensuring the gas supply. Factories not being opened, even after the construction is complete is just unfortunate. This only wastes the valuable public money. Good governance and accountability have to be established in all areas of the government projects.   

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