From Ldc To Developing Country: Govt’s mega projects to change face of BD

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Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

MNA Editorial Desk: Bangladesh, with its continuous development since independence in 1971, is being considered among one of the most promising countries of South Asia. Through recently becoming eligible in all three criteria for graduating from Least Development Country (LDC) to developing country, the effort of the Bangladeshi government was recognized. The current government, under the valiant leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has adopted several mega projects which are expected to change the face of Bangladesh within the next decade.

These mega projects will definitely contribute in becoming a developing country by 2021 and developed country by 2041. Despite several challenges like; financial constraint and lack of technological know-how, works of few of these mega projects are already ongoing. The others are on the table for implementation. If these projects are completed within the set timeframe, the economy as well as life in Bangladesh will be elevated to the next level immediately.

Few Mega development projects by the government are acquiring fast pace towards completion and are expected to have significant positive impact though most of these are few years behind the schedule. Among them

Bangabadhu-1 Satellite, Padma Bridge, Padma Bridge Rail Link project, Rooppur Nuclear Power project, Paira Deep Sea Port, Matarbari and Rampal Coal-based Power projects, Metro Rail, LNG Terminal, Dhaka-Chittagong Elevated Highway etc are significantly noteworthy.

First communication satellite of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu-1 was shipped from France to Florida, US for launching to the orbit hopefully in the first half of April. American firm SpaceX was assigned to launch the satellite while Thales Alenia Space, a French firm completed the manufacturing of Bangabandhu-1. It will offer DTH video services, voice service to cellular backhaul, disaster recovery data, data service for internet, SCADA, SOHO as well as business-to-business (VSAT) etc. BTRC signed a USD 248million deal with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture and launch the satellite in November, 2015. It was almost a dream to have our own satellite even a few years back but today it is a shining reality.

Padma Bridge project might be the most courageous project of PM Hasina as in the face of a corruption allegation by the World Bank, she proceeded with the project with nation’s own funding and the project is progressing fast as is expected to be completed by 2018. It will connect the large population of the southern districts to the capital and will rejuvenate the economy of those districts having huge impact on national economy as well. The Padma Bridge Rail Link Project will connect the Padma Bridge with Faridpur through Zajira point by December 2018 and will connect with Dhaka by 2022.

The Metro Rail project is a great initiative of the government to solicit the traffic congestion in Dhaka City. On March 27, 2016, the government signed a contract with Japanese Tokyo Construction Company to develop the Metro Rail depot. The project is hugely funded by Japan. Once completed, the Metro rail project would allow 60,000 passengers to travel per hour and will definitely reduce the traffic jam in Dhaka city.

The 2400 megawatt Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is ongoing with USD 12.65 billion Russian funding as a deal was signed in December, 2015.The government expects the operation to start from 2022. This power plant will be first of its kind in Bangladesh to enormously solicit the power deficiency.

Another drastic project of the Bangladeshi government is the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal. Petrobangla signed a contract with a US based company for this project requiring an investment of USD 500 million. Additional investment will be made to import LNG from Qatar. Though opposed by many for high cost, it will diversify the country’s primary energy sources and will ensure that the gas-based industries and installations do not face a sudden lack of resources in the near future.

Despite huge protests, the government proceeded with Rampal coal-based power plant, a 1320MW power project sponsored by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL). Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) was given the construction contract at an estimated cost of USD 1.68 billion. It is expected to come into operation in December, 2018.

Matarbari coal-fire power project is another such project with 1200MW production capacity to be built near Maheshkhali with expected completion in 2022. The project is a costly one with USD 4.6 billion investment as it will come with its own deep sea port to facilitate coal import.

Alongside the Bay of Bengal, we do not have any deep sea port and that is a huge hassle for the large vessel to load or unload the cargo. This is inducing huge inefficiency in port operations and Paira Deep sea port is about to solve that. The port is expected to be fully in operation in 2023.

The Dhaka-Chittagong Elevated Express Highway will enable the citizens of both the cities to travel from Dhaka to Chittagong and vice versa within two hours. The vehicles will run 120km per hour without any blockade. This will highly increase the business relation between the two cities which will contribute to the national economy.

Moreover, Bangladesh government has taken an initiative to establish around 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Economic Zones (EZs) all over the country. The Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority has already leased a total of 76 land units of economic zones out of 100 and started work to establish around 100 economic zones over the next 14 years. This initiative of the government will generate about 10 million jobs and USD 40 billion worth of exports.

Bangladesh government is investing highly in Hi-Tech Parks to turn the country into hardware-software exporter. Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City (BHTC) is the first full-fledged special economic zone for IT and hi-tech industry in Bangladesh. Government is working with a target to earn USD 5 billion annually and create 1 million jobs by 2021 in IT sector. A total of 12 IT Parks will be established in 12 different districts to achieve the target.

Along with the above mentioned projects, Dhaka-Chittagong Express Railway, Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar Railway Link, Dhaka Elevated Expressway and some other projects are going to be extremely important. We can also expect some projects on utilization of sea resources to be taken soon.

The current government has taken a strong challenge to change the landscape of the country as they are really pushing the country forward. But few challenges are on the way for proper implementation.

From our experience, we have seen many large projects took a much higher time for completion of works from projected one and create the greatest barrier to our development works as it increases the project cost while declining project life or quality. Mostly this delay is caused by corruption — the greatest problem of Bangladesh. On several instances, either the pre-assumed budget for any project fails or the work does not reach the expected quality. Hence, the efficiency and effectiveness of any such project comes under serious question. If we cannot control corruption, it will be very difficult to draw out proper benefits.

To control corruption, it must be ensured that the works are allocated through transparent tenders without any influence. Hence, it can be ensured that no fund allocated for the project is used for any unfair means. A process should be set for checking on the progress of the projects to be carried out by auditors, quality controllers and surveyors, who have no monetary or personal interest. Progression check at different phases will keep all the relevant parties under constant pressure. The quality control must be assured during this check.

The progression check will bring out the liable parties for failing to complete the work in time or for failing to ensure quality and strong steps like; contract termination or penalty impose should be taken against them. If we act hard on deviations, such negligence will not occur in the future projects.

As the 11th National Election is close ahead, we expect, whoever comes in power will carry on with the project works and will initiate more as the development of Bangladesh can never be compromised.

With so many mega projects on hand, the lives of people are expected to change in Bangladesh very soon. The whole country will be connected to the capital, Dhaka will be a better place to live with control of traffic congestion; the economy will advance, people will have better internet connectivity throughout the country and the dream of Digital Bangladesh will come true. All these can happen in the next few years only if corruption can be eradicated.

The government of Sheikh Hasina has courageously taken so many mega projects which no other government could have dared. We hope all of these projects come to reality. If that happens, we need not worry about becoming a developing country anymore; rather we can chase the dream of becoming South Asian superpower. We hope Bangladeshi people enjoy the benefit of this brave run.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)