The expenditure of three ongoing development projects has increased by over 86% due to a lack of expected progress in work.
The projects are the development of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, the rehabilitation of polders in the coastal areas of Chattogram and addressing the Rohingya crisis.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) Tuesday approved amended proposals for the three projects at a cost of Tk3405,63 crore, up from the original cost of Tk1,829.48 crore.
So, the cost has gone up by Tk1,576.15 crore.
The Ecnec meeting was held at the National Economic Council conference centre in the capital. Planning Minister MA Mannan presided over the meeting by joining online from Ganabhaban.
At a press briefing after the meeting, Mannan gave detailed information about the approved projects.
He said four projects, including three old ones, were approved by Ecnec.
The total expenditure for implementing the projects will be Tk3,528.81 crore. Of this, Tk1,561.33 crore will come from the government's own funds. The remaining Tk1,967.48 crore will be collected from foreign sources as project assistance.
The minister said the project of the physical infrastructure development of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University was approved in 2018 at a cost of Tk491.34 crore.
"In the first amendment, the cost was estimated at Tk840.56 crore. As a result, the cost of the project has increased by Tk349.22 crore or 71.08%," he added.
Mannan said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had instructed that universities not be turned into markets.
"She said educational institutions should remain as such. University research needs to be increased. We also need to take measures to publish more and more research," he added.
The prime minister said the university was named after the national poet, and that is why its quality of education should be kept in mind.
"Funding for research is not a problem. If necessary, I will arrange the money myself. But now it is seen that there is an allocation for research, but the money is not spent," Mannan quoted the prime minister as saying.
"The prime minister said the overall number of students at universities should not be increased significantly," Mannan said.
He said to complete work by June this year, the duration of the rehabilitation project of Chattogram coastal area's polder no 62 (Patenga), polder no 63/1A (Anowara), and polder no-63/1B (Anwara and Patiya) had increased by two years. The project has been running since 2016.
As a result, the cost of the Tk280.3 crore project went up to Tk577.23 crore. The increase of Tk296.93 crore is 106% of the main project.
Similarly, the cost of the ongoing multi-sector project to address the Rohingya crisis on an emergency basis with the assistance of the World Bank increased by Tk930 crore.
The duration of the project was extended till June 2024 at a cost of Tk1,057.84 crore with a view to completing work by November next year. The cost of the project was increased by 88% to Tk1,987.84 crore.
The World Bank and the KfW Development Bank pledged Tk1,048.28 crore for implementation of the project, but it was being increased to Tk1,967.48 crore.
The planning minister told the briefing the president of the World Bank and the secretary general of the United Nations had earlier visited the Rohingya camps. "As a result, it has become easier to get grants."
He said the local people in Cox's Bazar have suffered a lot since the Rohingyas arrived there.
"So, infrastructure will be built through this project. This will benefit the Rohingya community as well as the local people," he said.
Apart from this, the project to create self-employment and alleviate poverty (phase-2) by extending activities of the Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (Bitac) for technical training, with an emphasis on women, was approved at a cost of Tk123.28 crore.
Under the project, by June 2025, around 15,000 women and men would be given technical training and employment would be arranged through skill development. Women would be prioritised in the project.
Regarding the project, the planning minister said the prime minister had directed that Bitac training be spread across the country.
"She urged for unemployment to be eradicated by expanding its [Bitac's] activities, especially in the northern districts," added the minister.