The government has approved a project to provide smart national identity (NID) cards to all citizens of the country.
The Tk1,805cr project was approved at an Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting on Tuesday, to create a modern, time-befitting, well protected database expanding the existing NID database.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the meeting through video conference, from Gonobhaban in the capital, while cabinet members and secretaries participated from the NEC conference room at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
After the meeting, Abul Kalam Azad, a member of the Planning Commission's socio-economic infrastructure division, briefed details about the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA-Second phase) project.
He said, "Earlier, smart cards were printed in France; through implementation of the project, we will be able to print them locally at a lower cost."
"Besides bringing all the country's citizens under a unique NID database, the project would play an important role in bringing transparency to public services and preparing a flawless voter list with accurate photos," he added.
Saying that the project would be implemented by the Election Commission, Azad said, "The approved project, scheduled to be implemented from December 2020 to November 2025, aims to upgrade the 2007-2008 voter list containing the demographic and biometric information of 8.5 crore crore voters."
"Earlier, in 2011, implementation of the first phase of this project worth Tk2,400 crore started with the World Bank's assistance and it will be completed by December next," he said, adding implementation cost of this second phase of the project, proposed by the election commission, might have lessened as computers, vehicles and other necessary machinery used in the first phase will be used in second phase also.
"Like the first phase, under this phase also, NID cards will be distributed and an up-to-date voter list with photos will be prepared. Manpower of the EC will be increased also," Azad said.
"Different government and non-government organisations will be provided with necessary information from the prepared database. Besides, the project will provide NIDs to expatriates in 40 countries across the globe for which purpose a separate Tk100 crore budget has been allotted," he continued.
Including this project, the Ecnec meeting approved seven projects in total worth Tk10,702.23 crore. Of the amount, the government would provide Tk6,459 crore while development partners would give a Tk4,242.96 crore loan.
Among other projects, Ecnec also approved an amended project proposal for the development of necessary infrastructure and facilities of ports, where the implementation cost is 287.66% more than the primary proposal. Implementation cost of the same project was amended earlier in 2018 also, increasing by almost 300% at that time.
Azad argued that the cost increased so much in the second amendment because the cost regarding land acquisition has increased.
He said the primary cost of the project, which started in 2015, was Tk1,128 crore. In 2018's amendment it jumped to Tk3,350 crore and now the project has been approved at a Tk4,374.47 crore cost.
"Besides the increased cost, the duration of the project has been extended also. The project started in 2015 with an aim to develop the infrastructure of Payra Port to accelerate its activities. It was scheduled to end in June 2018. At that time, its duration was extended by two years," he added.
It has been alleged that due to the delay in project implementation, goods unloading activities at the port is being hampered on a regular basis. Goods are still being unloaded from mother vessels at outer anchorage.
The project was undertaken to construct an administrative building to ensure hassle-free loading and unloading of export-import goods; bedsides building a warehouse, pilot boat, tug boat, and construction of approach road to the port.
Other projects approved at the Ecnec meeting include the Western Economic Corridor & Regional Enhancement Programme (WeCARE) Phase-I: Rural Connectivity, Market and Logistic Infrastructure Improvement Project (RCMLIIP); the Expansion of Cultivation of Improved Grasses to Ensure Animal Nutrition and Transfer of Appropriate Technology; and setting up the Sheikh Hasina Handloom Village on the Jhenidah-Jashore Highway, etc.