Dhaka, Bangladesh
Hugely higher budget

Hugely higher budget

Much for roads, less for bridges sought in ADP

Special Correspondent A hugely higher fund worth Tk 430.48 billion has been sought for roads and bridges from the next development budget, provoking scepticism about capacity for quality spending. Official sources billed the amount "record highest", accounting for 74 per cent higher than the current allocation of Tk 234.31 billion for the sector in the revised Annual Development Programme (RADP) for the outgoing financial year (FY) 2017-18. They pointed out that the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRT&B) sought such record-highest ADP funds despite lesser need for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project because of a little slower pace of work. In the meantime, the fund requirement for the under-construction Padma Bridge has been trimmed down. Yet, the ministry says, it needs higher funds for some fresh large projects approved in recent months. It named some mega-projects, including zonal roads' upgrading and widening, Padma railway link and Karnaphuli tunnel construction, which are considered fund-guzzling ones needing higher funds to feed from the upcoming ADP for FY2019. One ministry official said: "We have already sent the fund demands to the Planning Commission (PC). We have sought the proposed allocations in the upcoming ADP for the next FY2019." According to the proposed fund demands, the MoRT&B has sought more than double themoney sought for the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) in the next development budget compared to the current amount. Nearly Tk 293 billion is sought for roads and highways against the current fiscal allocation of Tk 130.70 billion. Besides, the Bridges Division has sought 34 per cent higher funds or Tk 91.96 billion in the next ADP than its current revised ADP outlay of Tk 68.64 billion. And another fat claimant, Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA), seeks Tk 39.62 billion in the upcoming ADP against its current allocation of Tk 34.97 billion, and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) looks for Tk 5.04 billion against current allocation of Tk 0.90 million. A PC official said they had received record highest fund demand from the MoRT&B in the next year's development budget. "But we have recommended Tk 396.74 billion or 69 per cent higher funds compared to the current allocation of Tk 234.31 billion for the MoRT&B to the Programming Division of the PC to frame the next ADP," he told this correspondent. The official said in view of government fund constraints, demand for more than double funds by the ministry is highly ambitious. "Yet, if we allocate even entire demanded funds, will the ministry be able to implement or spend the amount in the next one year?" he questioned. Another striking feature in the fund demand is that the agencies under the MoRT&B have sought very negligible funds from the available foreign aid in the pipeline although its fund demand from government's internal resources climbed up unusually. According to the ministry, it has sought only Tk 91.96 billion or 22 per cent of the total allocations as project aid while Tk 338.52 billion or the rest 78 per cent from the government exchequer. On the other hand, officials pointed out, the MoRT&B has sought a lower fund by Tk 3.08 billion to Tk 43.95 billion in the next development budget for Bangladesh's highest-priority project --Padma Multipurpose Bridge-compared to the current allocation as the Bangladesh Bridges Authority has been lagging behind the schedule for executing the scheme. The ADP for FY2019 is likely to be finalised late next month, a senior PC official said. Bangladesh's expected infrastructure improvements need huge investment. The government with the help of the multilateral and bilateral donors invests a good amount of funds every year to develop the country's scanty infrastructures compared to the requirement to provide the backbone to the economy of a designated developing nation. "The ministry is one of five top development budget-recipients from internal resources, because of need for constructing new roads and bridges and upgrading the existing ones across the country," the official. The transport ministry has proposed to implement 136 development projects in the next fiscal investing the funds it has sought, he said.

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