Implementation of the annual development programme is still below the pre-pandemic level as key ministries and divisions cannot pick up development spending even though the virus situation has improved.
The development spending stood at 35.80% in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, according to the updated report by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), while the rate was 33.83% in July-February of the last fiscal year.
The average spending in the corresponding period prior to the pandemic was 37% to 39%.
As one of the key spenders of the development budget, the Ministry of Shipping is now implementing a number of vital projects such as Chattogram port, Matarbari Port and Payra Port. But the ministry could spend only 18.52% of the allocation.
Meanwhile, the Bridges Division that is constructing the Padma Bridge and Karnaphuli Tunnel spent only 22% of its allocation. Spending by the Health Services Division, who is responsible for Covid jab purchasing and nationwide inoculation, hovered around 20.57% in July-February period.
The reasons for the sluggish project spending noted by the IMED are typical: land acquisition issues, tender delay, lack of feasibility study and planning and project undertaking without any foreign funding assurance.
IMED officials said foreign consultants and experts could not come to project sites due to the pandemic. For the same reason, there were delays in importing project materials from abroad.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute (PRI), said the public agencies spent less at the beginning of the fiscal year. The pent-up spending puts a pressure on them at the end of the year paving ways for spending anomalies.
Referring to spiralling prices of the construction materials even before 24 February when Russia invaded Ukraine, he said many contractors are now working at a slower pace in the hope of project price revision.
Zaid Bakht, former research director at the public research agency Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said development spending has been facing similar vulnerabilities year after year.
"The implementing agencies often do not have proper plans, leading to land acquisition and tender delays. As a result, pressure forces the public agencies to spend more than 60% of the total allocation at the end of the fiscal year," he noted.
Zaid Bakht said hurried works lack quality and waste public money.