More than two and a half years have passed since the construction of Parjatan Bhaban began in the capital's Agargaon. But only less than half its allocation could be spent until work on it got stuck owing to the coronavirus outbreak.
The originally two-year project was granted a one-year extension along with a Tk16-crore cost hike to be rescheduled for June this year.
Now the project has barely two months to be completed with Tk39 crore yet to be spent.
Some 312 projects are supposed to be completed in June this year. But all of them remain suspended.
Implementation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) usually gathers pace in the closing quarter of a financial year. But this time, almost all works have remained suspended, signalling another poor finish in ADP utilisation.
Work on most of 1,743 ADP projects remains halted after the government announced a general holiday to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
However, work on Padma Bridge, Padma rail link and Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant has been going on, though on a limited scale.
Under these circumstances, Planning Minister MA Mannan himself has cast doubts on a full implementation of ADP this fiscal year too.
"Now, the government's utmost priority is to protect the people from the coronavirus. Projects have been stopped to ensure the safety of workers and employees," Mannan told The Business Standard.
"Nobody knows what will happen in the future. If the situation becomes normal soon, we will try to take the ADP implementation to an acceptable level even if it requires double shifts for workers," the minister said.
But ADP implementation will not be satisfactory if this crisis lingers, he stated.
Till February this fiscal year, the government agencies were able to spend Tk80,143 crore out of Tk201,198 crore of the ADP for the period.
With 40 percent progress in the first eight months, they now have to spend Tk121,055 crore in the remaining four months in order to achieve the cent percent implementation target of the revised ADP.
Data for the last 10 years note that the government ministries and divisions can execute 40-46 percent of the ADP in the first eight months of a fiscal year. ADP is downsized in March every year, and the rest of the money is spent quickly.
Apart from stopping all the projects, the ministries have also cancelled implementation evaluation meetings amid coronavirus worries.
When contacted, Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, Secretary, Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), said, "All project works remain halted amid coronavirus fears. Project monitoring has also been stopped."
IMED sources said till February, the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail line project saw an expense of Tk631.35 crore against an allocation of Tk1,135 crore for the year.
Project Director Md Mofizur Rahman said the target was to spend Tk503 crore in the remaining four months, but the project work has been halted.
The work continued on a small scale till the general holiday was announced to contain the coronavirus outbreak, he added.
If the situation does not improve, the project will fail to reach its target for the current fiscal year, the project director said.
As of February, only Tk228 crore out of Tk3,995 crore allocated for the current fiscal year could be spent on the Padma rail link project. Therefore, the allocation was slashed to Tk3297 crore in the revised ADP.
Railway Secretary Mofazzol Hossain doubts that Tk3068 crore can be spent in the remaining four months as work has been going on slowly.
All project works, except for the Padma rail link project under the railway ministry, have been postponed. If the situation does not improve, the ADP implementation target will not be fulfilled.
Shafiqur Rahman, project director at the Padma bridge project, said because of the countrywide shutdown being enforced to stem the coronavirus outbreak, work on the Padma Bridge has been limited.
"There is a crisis of workers. Besides, several spans that remain in China cannot be brought to the country until the coronavirus crisis ends. If this situation does not improve, the project will not be completed by June next year."
Doubts over completion of 312 projects by this fiscal year
Work on 355 projects was supposed to end within the current fiscal year. Later, the target was brought down to 312 projects in the revised ADP.
But now in the last quarter, there appears uncertainty over their timely implementation with all the projects remaining suspended for the coronavirus outbreak.
Planning Commission officials think in this situation, some projects might be declared as complete, keeping some works undone while the schedules of some others can be extended.
Every year some projects are declared as complete although some works remain unfinished.
"In the last fiscal year, 157 projects were declared as complete even though some works were left incomplete. As a result, people do not get the targeted benefits of projects," said Dr Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
If a project time schedule gets extended, its cost also escalates. So keeping it in mind, the Planning Commission has issued a directive on not including the projects, marked for completion in the ADP for the current fiscal year, in the ADP for next year.
When asked about the directive, Planning Secretary Md Nurul Amin, said "Coronavirus is not only the problem of Bangladesh. Because of this unwanted crisis, many projects will remain unfinished. Accepting this reality, we will have to decide our next course of action."
"We expect that all the projects will be completed. Only if they remain unfinished on logical grounds will we include them in the next fiscal year's ADP."
What do project officials say?
"Even If we get some time, we will be able to finish the rest of the work. But if this situation continues, it will be tough to do so in the stipulated time," Md Mahmud Kabir, general manager (works) at Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, told this correspondent about the construction of Parjatan Bhaban.
The important rural infrastructure development project on priority basis-2 has got an allocation of around Tk839 crore with Tk20 crore each in every lawmaker's constituency this current fiscal year.
Project Director Md Shafiqur Rahman said the project work needed to be speeded up in the last fiscal year. But the coronavirus outbreak has stopped the work.
What do economists suggest?
Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said as at the beginning of this fiscal year, project works did not make progress and thus pressure mounted in the remaining part of the year.
"In reality, it will not be possible to fully implement this year's ADP under the current situation. And this will have to be taken into consideration during the formulation of next year's ADP."
This fiscal year's unfinished projects will have to be completed by next year by giving them much importance. If there is not much necessity, taking up of new projects has to be stopped, he added.
Economist Dr Salehuddin Ahmed thinks ADP implementation does not get much pace for taking up more projects than capacity.
He suggested reducing the number of projects by putting importance on infrastructure development.
Why so much rush in last part of fiscal year?
It takes time to begin work on a new project for some formalities in the issuance of a circular, the appointment of an adviser, creating a tender and getting approval for purchase order, said Ahsan H Mansur.
But such a delay should not happen with regard to the ongoing projects, he added.
IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah said project works get delayed because of the rainy season at the beginning of a fiscal year.
On some occasions, financial progress appears to be comparatively low owing to delays in payments of contractors although work progress at field-level remains much ahead.
He terms the situation contradictory to financial regularity.
Quality of work cannot be maintained because of the abnormal speed in project works in the later part of a fiscal year. As a result, a big amount is wasted, said Dr Salehuddin Ahmed.