The Annual Development Programme, under which the government implements nearly 2,000 development projects across a range of ministries every year to facilitate the economic growth of the country, has been badly hit in the current economic climate, with implementation in the current fiscal down at a 14-year low i.e. the lowest since the Awami League-led government came to power in 2009.

Implementation of the ADP is usually measured by how much of the funds allocated for it have actually been disbursed, and presumably spent. By that yardstick, just 31.17 percent of the total allocation had been disbursed till February this year, i.e. the first eight months of the current fiscal (2023-24) as the government managed to spend just Tk 85,603 crore out of the Tk 274,678 crore ADP budget allocation. The National Economic Council (NEC) recently approved a Tk 245,000 crore Revised Annual Development Programme (RADP) for the current fiscal, prioritising sectors like road transport, communication, energy and power. Even so, implementation is expected to lag behind previous years in almost the entire AL era.

Most gallingly, according to officials, the implementation this year is expected to even trail behind that of the Covid-19 pandemic years. What is more worrying however, is that spending in the crucial health and education sectors have been particularly lagging. Up until February, the secondary and higher education division managed to spend Tk 1,941 crore, or 14.71 percent, of its total allocation of Tk 13,192 crore. Similarly, the health services division spent just Tk 2,472 crore out of its allocation of Tk 12,007 crore. Both are in the bottom three when it comes to implementation of the 15 divisions and ministries receiving the highest allocations. This is after a lack of spending capacity forced the government to award less-than-expected allotments to the sectors in the original ADP for this fiscal. Only the Shipping Ministry, of which spending stood at Tk 1,378 crore, only 13.88 percent of its total allocation, had done worse in the July-February period.

Planning Commission and IMED officials say the government ministries and agencies failed to improve upon their capacity even after recovery from the Covid-19 impact when the project works were affected severely. The secretary to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) has come out and blamed the project directors for not playing "a more proactive role" in implementation of the projects under them. He also said the government was facing difficulties in fulfilling revenue generation targets while the scope for borrowing from commercial banks and printing more money through the central bank had both narrowed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed officials at the NEC meeting on March 12 to ensure feasibility studies for improving the quality of implementation and speeding up implementation of projects that would serve people immediately. Yet there is only so much that they can do, due mainly to a lack of capacity in this difficult period for the economy.

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