The government of Bangladesh is planning to set up another nuclear power plant in the southern region of the country, said sources.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her wish of setting up a new nuclear power plant at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday.
After the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said: "While approving an infrastructure for overseeing the safety of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the prime minister expressed her wish. But, in which district of the southern region the plant will be set up has not been finalised yet."
In addition to the project to oversee the safety of the Rooppur Plant, Mannan said, 10 other projects of Tk11,467 crore were approved at the meeting. Of which, Tk8,271 crore will be allotted from the government fund, while Tk3,196 will be received as foreign loans.
The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority will supervise the project – aimed at training and infrastructure development. It will be implemented at Tk1,710 crore. As much as 77 percent of the amount – Tk1,332 crore – will be spent on consultancy. Russian and Indian consultancy firms will get the contracts of the project.
More than Tk1,258 crore has been allocated for the Russian firm – nearly 73.56 percent of the total cost. Meanwhile, the Indian firm will get Tk61.84 crore or 3.62 percent of the project expenditure.
When asked about the cost of the consultancy services, Mannan said: "Bangladesh has to agree to this as a condition for getting loans from the development partners. The project will be implemented using government fund, however. On the other hand, the consultants' fee has increased due to technical and logistic reasons."
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' (BBS) project "Population and Housing Census 2021" was also approved at the meeting of Ecnec.
Ten years have passed since the last population and house census in 2011. The new census will cost Tk1,762 crore – seven times more than the cost of the last one.
On the huge hike in the cost of the census, Mannan said: "Ten years is a long period. Many people have migrated from villages to cities."
"Number of people involved in the census has been increased from 3.76 lakh to 5.06 lakh. Vehicles will also be used in the new census. People who will do the counting will get motorcycles in addition to receiving a remuneration – four times higher than the previous one. All these have contributed to the extra project cost," he explained.
Officials at the Planning Commission said the BBS' initially proposed project cost – Tk237 crore – was 15 times higher than the amount spent on the last census of 2011.
The bureau at first proposed a budget of Tk3,500 crore for the census. However, the Planning Commission, while scrutinising the proposal, detected irrational expenditures in a number of areas.
Facing opposition from the Planning Commission, the BBS has slashed its proposed budget for the "Population and Housing Census 2021" by Tk1,738 crore in two phases.
Abul Kalam Azad, member of the Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division of the Planning Ministry said: " Because of inefficiency, many projects propose an extra budget. But the Planning Commission never allows such sloppiness."
When contacted, Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute Dr Ahsan H Mansur said: "The [government] officials know how to make money in illegal ways. This is why the project cost increases."
Every project should be examined carefully to ensure the right use of the government fund, Mansur also said, adding that a project's cost can be decreased by increasing the use of technology.