The implementation of foreign-funded projects has slowed since January due to the absence of a large number of Chinese staff and other foreign consultants as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Work on most projects has stopped since late March when the government announced a countrywide shutdown to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
In this situation, the implementation agencies– different ministries and divisions – want to spend a large amount of foreign funds through the Annual Development Programme (ADP) in fiscal year 2020-21.
An official of the Economic Relations Division said upon the demand by the ministries and the divisions, the ERD has proposed an allocation of Tk70, 502 crore from the foreign fund in the upcoming ADP.
The official further said the ERD had already sent targets of allocation to the Finance Division and the Planning Commission for their consideration.
The proposal will be finalised in the National Economic Council with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Meanwhile, although the government had a target of using Tk71,800crore foreign aid in fiscal year 2019-20, the amount has fallen to Tk62,000 crore in the revised ADP.
The volume of foreign aid has dropped by Tk9,800crore, or 13.65 percent, in the revised ADP due to the slow project implementation.
According to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) report, the ministries and divisions have spent Tk25,881 crore of foreign assistance during the July-February period of the current fiscal year.
IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah told The Business Standard that work on most development projects – including mega ones – have remained stopped since March.
The countrywide shutdown has dealt quite a blow to big projects that had been maintaining a trend of slow implementation since their inceptions at different times.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said once the Covid-19 crisis is over the government will work in double shift so that the economic wheels can move faster through a speeding up of the implementation of the projects.
The government wants to inaugurate the Metrorail (Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit-MRT-6) from Uttara to Motijheel by December 16, 2021, the year marking the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's emergence as an independent nation.
But it may not be possible amid the global coronavirus crisis, said officials of the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd. Now they want to keep the allocation so that they can speed up the work once the shutdown is over.
The Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail line construction and the China-funded Padma rail link are the two fast track projects under the railway authorities that have been affected by the global pandemic.