Friday, September 21, 2018 | ePaper

LoC projects: Concern over slow progress of its implementation

Indian Co asked to complete railway work by Dec

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Monirul Alam :
Indian Railway Construction (IRCON) International Limited, a government of India enterprise engaged in railway construction work in Bangladesh under the first Line of Credit (LoC), was directed to complete 9-km Fultola-Aranghata railway work by December this year as the project implementation authorities have detected unusual delay, official sources say.
The decision came at a review meeting of Joint Monitoring Team (JMT) of Bangladesh and India held in Dhaka on August 13. The meeting co-chaired by Md. Zahidul Haque, Additional Secretary to Economic Relations Division of Bangladesh, and Dr. Adarsh Swaika, Deputy High Commissioner of India in Dhaka.    
The sources said that parties of LoC -- India and Bangladesh -- have expressed concern over the slow progress of implementation of the projects initiated under the LoC funds. Thus, they advised all the stakeholders to expedite processes pending at respective end.
The Deputy High Commissioner of India categorically mentioned that the speedy implementation of the projects is the highest priority of his country's side. He opined that the delay in the implementation of first LoC should not be repeated in the second (U$$ 2.0 billion) and third LoCs (U$$ 4.5 billion) and requested all the stakeholders to act accordingly.
All the three LoCs are aimed at improving Bangladesh's internal infrastructures
by Indian financing from EXIM Bank of India.
Under the first LoC, a U$$ 308.92 million project titled Construction of 9-km Fultala-Aranghata component of Khulna-Mongla Port Rail line, including feasibility study, was launched in 2013, following India and Bangladesh moved to the joint initiative to improve infrastructures in Bangladesh styled Line of Credit (LoC). The first LoC was amounting to US$ 1.0 billion.
The August 2018 meeting credentials showed that the Khulna-Mongla port rail project was able to utilize only 18.13 percent of the project value in last five years which parties at the meeting observed as 'not satisfactory at all'.
"The causes of slow progress of this project were discussed. To expedite the current work progress, the chair instructed the contractor, IRCON to complete Fultala to Aranghata (0 to 9 km of this project) section by December 2018 without any pre-condition. IRCON was also instructed to mobilize equipment and project personnel as per existing contract," said official sources.
Slow implementation of the project resulted in higher cost of variables, the sources said.    
Meanwhile, among other projects, construction of 3rd and 4th Dual Gauge track between Dhaka-Tongi section and Doubling of Dual-Gauge track between Tongi-Joydevpur section, including signaling works of Bangladesh Railway, also lagging behind the schedule due to encroachment and alignment related issues.  
The Project Director informed the JMT meeting that they are working to remove the encroachments from the proposed project alignment. He also informed that they are planning to start work on Tongi-Joydevpur Section (11 kms) of the project due to less encroachment in this area. He said the contract agreement has been prepared and sent to ERD, which may be forwarded to EXIM Bank for approval. Cost of the project has been estimated to US$ 102.9 million.
Some 15 projects were initiated under the first LoC. Some of the projects still either in the process of completing DPP (Draft Project Proposal) while some other awaiting EXIM Bank's approval, according to sources.
Officials working in the projects said documentation, procurement, approval, land acquisition, removal of encroachments and procurement related works entails time elapsing that resulting in delay in implementation of the projects.
Meanwhile, second and third LoCs, amounting to U$$ 2.0 billion and U$$ 4.5 billion respectively, are in the pipeline of implementation when the incumbent government's tenure is appearing to be ending in December 2018; as the country moving to a general election.  
Sources said officials assigned to monitor implementation of projects under LoCs are under pressure to expedite overall implementation strategies and speeding up physical progress.
On this backdrop, Research Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue Khandaker Golam Moazzem said the parties of LoC can use the experiences gathered in implementing first LoC in order to remove delay and improve quality of implementation works of the projects under the latter LoCs.
"At first, no party (of the stakeholders) could seek excuse for anything. All should work truly for implementation of LoC projects timely," he suggests.
He also suggests that parties can enact a fresh Standard Operating Procedure that will show guideline to project officials and monitoring authority on documentation, timeline, selection of contractor, sourcing and fund release.
"India and Bangladesh officials working first time under the LoC projects and matching of the nature of work and characteristics of bureaucratic process requires some time. In this case, the first LoC project implementation experiences can be utilize in the latter's," he said.
He maintained, "In the first LoC projects, I knew that projects which entail only purchase from India achieved faster progresses but which involved physical works turn sluggish. So, a 'Standard Operating Procedure' might work to expedite implementation processes."   
He said projects initiated under LoCs would keep rationale interest for either party if the government would change in the upcoming general election.
"Infrastructure development is the main target of the LoC projects and these will remain same important for any government," he added. Some 34 projects were initiated under the LoCs in the area of improving port facilities, set up power plants, water, road and railway construction, renovation and expansion and establishment of medical colleges and social development.

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