Minister finds no service delivery from road division
Road Transport and Highways Division has demanded additional Tk 3,098.88 crore for implementing development projects in the current fiscal year amid criticisms that it failed to deliver services despite receiving sufficient fund every year.
The finance ministry officials said that the road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader made the demand this month in a demi official letter to finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
They said the extra fund has been sought mainly for the under-construction separate lanes for slow moving vehicles under the Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga four-lane project, cost of which was revised upward to Tk 10,363 crore in 2018 from original Tk 6,252 crore for the additional components.
The upgrading of Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga road has already been criticised for its high construction cost — per kilometre of the 55-km highway set at Tk 113.67 crore when it was approved the ECNEC in May 2016.
On Thursday, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that there was no effective service delivery from the division although they are given sufficient fund every year. He made the remark while addressing a seminar on ‘Lifetime of the Highways: Challenges and Imperative’
In the current fiscal year, Tk 25,163 crore has been sanctioned for the division that has been implementing 164 projects including the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
Mustafa Kamal, who was critical of poor quality of highways across the country and their lifetimes, asked the division to focus on quality and not on quantity of roads.
He also suggested the division officials collecting tolls from highways for meeting the road maintenance cost apparently lack of sufficient fund in the government coffer.
The government has already borrowed Tk 47,139 crore from banks in five months (July-November) against the projection Tk 47,364 crore in this fiscal because of slow revenue incomes.
On November 26, the coordination council on macro economy and budget management expressed worries with the poor revenue collection with anxiety as the revenue earning shortfall in the first four months of fiscal already exceeded Tk 40,000 crore.
On Wednesday, finance secretary Abdur Rauf Talukder told reporters that they are expecting recovery in revenue generation with the automation in collection of Value Added Tax from January.
AK Mohammad Fazlul Karim, superintending engineer of the Roads and Highway Department, said insufficient fund was one of the main reasons for dilapidated highways and their short lifetimes.
He said RHD received 2,228.91 crore against the demand of Tk 11,884.00 crore in 2018-19 fiscal year for maintenance of its highways.
He also projected that the requirement of road maintenance fund will grow to Tk 15,000 by 2024.
World Bank has been funding a project of constructing 85,000 metres of bridges, widen or rehabilitate 29,000 metres of bridges and build another 20,000 metres of new bridges with US$425 million in Bangladesh since last year.
It said that Bangladesh had a higher road density-that was the ratio of the total road length to the country’s land area-than any other South Asian country, including India and Sri Lanka.