FAILURE in completing development projects in time and within budget has for long impacted the economy as delayed implementation adds to project costs. At the same time, delay in project implementation means not delivering the expected benefits to the public when they are needed and adding to their sufferings. The well-known and universally accepted development motto — faster project implementation is key to an effective and efficient development — appears to have been lost in Bangladesh. Even first-track projects, most of which are partially or fully funded through external debts, are not completed in time. The Asian Development Bank country director rightly pointed out on Sunday, as New Age reported on Monday, that Bangladesh lags behind in completing most projects in time and within budget, causing cost overruns and lowering the expected benefits from the projects. The implementation rates of the much publicised first-track projects are worth noting. The poor and sluggish implementation rates of the government’s much publicised first-track projects such as the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Padma bridge railway link and Dhaka Mass Rapid Transport are cases in example.
To take the Padma Multipurpose Bridge as a case in point, the deadline for the completion of the bridge construction has been extended for the fourth time to December 2019 while the project cost has been revised to Tk 39,258.13 crore which is nearly four times its initial cost of Tk 10,161 crore. Yet, it is highly likely that the revised deadline may not also be met as almost 30 per cent of the work is yet to be done with only three months in hand. The case of another first-tract project, the metro railway, is no different. There are reasons to doubt that the first phase of the project — from Uttara to Agargaon — will not be opened by the end of the year, the deadline, as more than 50 per cent of the work is yet to be done. The slow implementation of the government’s priority project indicates how the other low-priority projects suffer from delay and cost overruns. Delayed implementation, experts say, is the main reason for the soaring costs of construction. It is not surprising that, as the World Bank revealed in 2017, the road construction cost in Bangladesh is higher than any other countries.
With most of the development projects funded through external credit — that too through supplier’s credit and short-term borrowings at high interest rates — the government and the authorities concerned are not in a position to afford delay in project implementation. They must ensure fast and quality implementation to reap the benefits of the development projects. Realising that delayed implementation of projects is a manifold burden, the government must work accordingly.
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