December 2, 2020, 5:30 am


SAM

Published:
2020-01-21 18:17:09 BdST

Doubt deepens over timely completion of Padma bridge


FT ONLINE

Poor record on execution has prompted the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, or BBA, to slash the allocations for the Padma bridge project by 25 percent during the current fiscal, officials said on Monday.

The BBA has recently scaled down its fund demand to Tk 40.15 billion for the upcoming revised Annual Development Programme, or ADP, from the original outlay of Tk 53.71 billion for fiscal year 2019-20.

Although the authority had earlier ratcheted up pressure on the Planning Commission (PC) to get the entire fund, it has now backtracked halfway through the ongoing ADP, they said.

The road transport and bridges minister has recently sent a request to the commission for lowering allocations of the Tk 301.93-billion bridge, potentially the country's longest.

A senior Commission official said during the preparatory stage of the current ADP, the PC had requested the bridges division to seek funds rationally when its demand was considerably high.

But the division assured the Commission of utilising the entire fund during the FY2020 and said the bridgework will be implemented by following the deadline, he said preferring anonymity.

The official noted that the bridge authority did the same thing during the preparation of the revised ADP for the last fiscal, cutting its demand for money by 40 percent to Tk 26.56 billion.

The official said the bridges division has recently submitted its lower demand to the Commission, failing to achieve the target time-line.

Now there is a likelihood of getting the long-awaited bridge project implementation delayed again, he added.

The Padma bridge is supposed to link the impoverished south-western region with the capital of Dhaka.

The Padma is a top-priority project of the present government, but it has already missed the deadline for completion.

The bridge authority has spent Tk 19.10 billion, only 35 percent of its current allocation in the first half (Jul-Dec) of the current fiscal.

A senior commission official said it has become a regular phenomenon in recent years: The implementing agencies usually seek higher funds in the ADP, but fail to maintain momentum in the second half when the revised ADP is prepared.

It not only creates fiscal mismanagement, but also hampers the development work of many other priority projects, he added.

According to the current deadline, the Padma bridge construction project, already revised twice, was supposed to have been completed by December 2019.

Later, the authority has extended the deadline up to June 2021.

Until December 2019, the authority implemented 70.66 percent of the total project work as it spent Tk 213.34 billion out of its total outlay.

Obaidul Quader on December 30 said that all 41 spans of the bridge will be installed by July 2020 if there is no natural disaster.

The minister also said that the government has set the target of opening the bridge to traffic by June 2021.

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