THE Department of Livestock Services sought the National Economic Council approval for a project on the expansion of the cultivation of advanced grass varieties and the transfer of technology for the development of animal nutrition. The project, involving Tk 1015.3 million, seeks to spend Tk 32 million on sending 32 officials abroad to learn how to cultivate hybrid grass varieties. The executive committee of the National Economic Council at a meeting on Tuesday rightly sent back the proposal for a revision asking the implementing agency only to send abroad officials relevant to the project that is timed for April 2020–June 2024. The component of the proposal on foreign trips meant to gather experiences, spending public money, is nothing isolated but one in a series despite a directive that the prime minister has on a number of occasions made not to make foreign trips in the name of project implementation. In September 2020, the primary education ministry came up with a component in a project for overseas training of 500 officials to learn how to manage midday meals at schools at the cost of Tk 50 million. The commerce ministry is reported to have sought, reported in March 2020, under a project on the export competitiveness of agricultural products, an allocation of Tk 5 million for overseas trips of 10 officials.
The government has, in fact, allowed such trips for years, which it should not have done and it opened the floodgate, noticeably beginning in September 2015 when Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha planned study tours to gather theoretical and practical knowledge of urban development. The National Economic Council in October 2019 approved the Mujibnagar irrigation development project, with an allocation of Tk 16.8 million for the training of two dozen officials in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands to gather experiences of how to dig ponds. In almost all cases, such trips appear to be ways to squander away public money as such training abroad has hardly made its mark on development process. In all such cases, the government should rather strengthen the institutional capacity of the implementing agencies. In the case at hand, as many argue, the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute should be asked to put in its knowledge and resources to improve on the quality of fodder. Besides, there are seven agricultural universities and a number of institutes running under them. They could easily be employed to work on improving the quality of fodder, aimed at increasing cow milk production. The fact that public agencies keep coming up with proposals with provisions for overseas trips also points to the failure of the authorities concerned to put a check on the irrational practice that put a burden on national expenditure.
The practice of sending government officials abroad for training over and over again at the expense of public money, or the intention to do so, has come to be a ludicrous proposition. The government must, under the circumstances, be stringent about preventing the waste of public money in such a manner. The government agencies must also stop including provisions for unnecessary foreign trips in the name of training for officials. The government and the authorities concerned must, rather, strengthen local institutions, with financial and human resources, so that all necessary training could be organised at home.
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