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All-weather Itna-Mithamoin-Austragram road offers new hope for haor people

 Tribune Desk

 Published at 09:00 pm December 5th, 2021


Itna mithamoin haor road Courtesy

Government has also cleared a Tk3,500-crore project to build an 11-kilometre elevated expressway through the haors in Kishoreganj

An all-weather 30-kilometre road is transforming the lives of the haor people in Kishoreganj with new jobs and income-generating activities besides traditional paddy cultivation and fishing.

The socio-economic condition of the local people is gradually uplifting with the rise in their incomes thanks to the improved communication system, reports UNB.

On a recent visit to the Itna-Mithamoin-Austagram Haor road, a UNB correspondent found that the locals, traditionally dependent on agriculture and fishing, have started engaging in many alternative works to boost the family income.

Consider Abul Hossain, who has taken to driving an auto-rickshaw when there is no crop in the haor.

"This road has paved the way of earning in different ways. We can now think of different jobs alongside fishing and paddy production," he said.

The part-time auto driver also said: "We, the inhabitants of three upazillas, are now well-connected round the year because of this road. We can meet anytime within three areas and trade our production which was a rare thing before. Communications with the other districts through Kishoreganj has become faster and time-saving.”

On the other hand, fisherman Mahabat hailing from Mithamoin Upazila said people of the haor are enjoying the benefits of this road.


Itna mithamoin haor road Courtesy

"Some people thought that construction of a road through the haor was a waste of money. Now all the people enjoy the benefits. The uninterrupted communication with the neighbouring districts will be possible within some years." he said.

A wholesale merchant of Itna upazila, Rahmat Ali said his sales have increased manifold as the road is attracting more tourists to the once remote backwater areas.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said revealing his excitement.

With a greater flow of tourists the business in hotels and restaurants is also booming.

Jubair, who works at Kachalanka restaurant, said they are receiving many customers in the area after the inauguration of this road.

“Though visitors come here in a huge number during the rainy season for enjoying the beauty of the haor region, we are getting many tourists here round the year now,” he said.

During a visit to the area last month, President Md Abdul Hamid, who hails from the area, shared his feelings about the road and other development works.

On the way from Mithamoin to Austagram, the son-of-the-soil said: “These three isolated upazilas are now connected by this 30- kilometre long road. It used to take five hours to go by boat and a day on foot. Now it is possible to go only in fifteen minutes.”

Referring to the construction of the road as a milestone in the development of the Haor area, Hamid spoke about his plans for further development of the region and its people.

He said people will get more benefits after the construction of the elevated expressway that will facilitate fast transportation of goods, agricultural products and fishery resources throughout the year.


Itna mithamoin haor road Courtesy: Mofassar Rahman Niloy

The government has taken up a Tk3,500-crore project to build an 11-kilometre elevated expressway through haors in Kishoreganj to connect the north-eastern backwater to the mainland.

The project -- Development of Elevated Way and Infrastructure in Haor Area -- proposed by the local government division was approved at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) meeting on November 23.

President Hamid, the Supreme Commander of the Armed forces, said people will also get more benefit on completion of the ongoing work on building a cantonment in the area.

Also Read - 

The cantonment is being constructed on a 275-acre land in Mithamoin. The work on earth filling and levelling has been completed, while works on riverbank protection and wave protection are going nicely, local officials said.

The president hoped that the haor, which was once a remote area, will be a tourism hub after the completion of the ongoing development works. Tourism has already opened scope of new economic activities for the locals.

Almost half the Kishoreganj district, including four of its six Upazilas - Itna, Mithamoin, Austagram and Nikli, is designated as a complete haor area: unique wetland ecosystems that during the monsoon resemble vast inland seas.

President Hamid had inaugurated the construction work of the Itna-Mithamoin-Austagram highway project in the haor area in 2016.

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Abul Kashem

05 December, 2021, 10:40 pm

Last modified: 05 December, 2021, 10:43 pm

BBIN motor vehicle pact to go ahead without Bhutan

An official says there will be more talks to finalise the regional transport deal



Bangladesh, India and Nepal have decided to go ahead with a regional motor vehicles agreement without Bhutan as the country pulled out of the deal.

A tripartite meeting of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement in Delhi came up with the decision on 27 November, Md Nazrul Islam, secretary of Road Transport and Highways Division, told The Business Standard.

"There was no conclusive decision about the enforcement date of the pact. Officials of the three countries will hold some more talks to finalise everything," he added.

The pact was signed on 15 June 2015, in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu to facilitate the cross-border movement of passenger and cargo vehicles. Later, the three countries ratified the agreement while Bhutan backed out.

Subsequently, India had been talking about implementing the pact without Bhutan. According to India, Bhutan could be added to the arrangements anytime if it agrees in future.

Though Bangladesh, India and Nepal earlier agreed on most of the provisions of the draft cargo protocol, the three neighbours could not get to the point over issues such as the weight of the cargo, introducing bank guarantees against cargo freights, and the amount of goods a country can transport through others.

According to officials, India wanted the movement of heavy freight trailers, but Bangladesh opposed it citing its weak infrastructure. The Indian side then proposed limited freight services at the beginning, while Dhaka said it would decide its position later after discussions with experts and stakeholders.

Under the cargo protocol, Bangladesh sought a bank guarantee provision for cargo freights. But India suggested that financial transactions be kept only under customs bonds. However, the meeting finally agreed on the inclusion of bank guarantees in the protocol.

Regarding passenger protocol, Bangladesh proposed establishing Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok and Bangladesh-Assam routes, which India agreed to. India also agreed to Bangladesh's proposal to include another two routes to the passenger protocol.

Nepal suggested that the countries have authority in levying charges and approving passengers and cargo movements into their respective territories.

Kathmandu sought a charge and levy waiver on Nepalese cargo. Nepal opposed a fixed cargo transport for all. It said each of the three countries would decide how much cargo they would allow being transported from the neighbours.

Officials at the commerce ministry and the road transport ministry said the transit of the protocol was tailored in line with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Transit under the BBIN protocol will begin after the signing of a Standard of Procedure (SoP) similar to the transit agreement with India for use of Mongla and Chattogram ports. The countries will be performing as respective permit issuance authorities.

In 2017, the Bhutanese parliament decided to opt out of the BBIN agreement for the time being but consented to the other three going ahead. The trial run of the Bangladesh-India-Nepal bus service was conducted in 2018.

Two buses carrying around 45 delegates from the three countries and the Asian Development Bank left Dhaka for Kathmandu via India.

In March this year at a secretary-level Bangladesh-India meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh highlighted some "futile regional deals". Dhaka also sought Delhi's greater role in reactivating and re-energising the pacts.

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‘FDI to increase up to three-fold in two years’

Published:  December 06, 2021 18:50:08 | Updated:  December 06, 2021 21:52:21

Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman has expressed his optimism that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Bangladesh would increase two to three times within the next couple of years.

The Adviser expressed such hope when a high-level delegation, led by Hartwig Schafer, Vice-President, South Asia Region of the World Bank, held a meeting with him on Monday at his office in Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) building in the capital's Agargaon area.

The meeting discussed various issues including expansion of trade and investment opportunities in Bangladesh and capital market development, reports BSS citing a press release.

Hartwig Schafer highly praised the inclusive growth achieved by Bangladesh in the last decade. The vice-president drew the attention of the adviser to the lower GDP-FDI ratio of Bangladesh.

In response, the advisor apprised the delegation that the ratio has been steady in the last decade. "As the size of GDP is increasing every year, the inflow of FDI is also growing," he added.

Salman briefed the World Bank delegation about the steps undertaken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina which include unprecedented growth in the power sector, turning agriculture into agribusiness, setting up of more than 100 economic zones to promote foreign direct investment as well as local investment and save arable land from unplanned development.

The government's steps also include establishing National Skills Development Authority to train and developing skilled human resources for meeting the needs of Fourth Industrial Revolutions, building nationwide IT infrastructure for widening digital connectivity across the country, framing new laws and amending regulations for creating an enabling environment for boosting investment in the private sector.

The advisor also mentioned the extraordinary success of the government in mass vaccination to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the detection of coronavirus and death rate under control.

Md. Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of BIDA, Professor Shibli Rubayat-Ul-Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC), Bikarna Kumar Ghosh, managing director (additional secretary), Bangladesh High-tech Park Authority were present, among others, at the meeting.

The World Bank delegation members who accompanied the vice-president are Mercy Tembon, country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, Zoubida Allaoua, regional director of Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions, South Asia Region (EFI), Cecile Fruman, a World Bank director for regional integration and engagement in South Asia, Yutaka Yoshino, lead country economist and program leader.

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Businesses face uneven competition due to weight scales on highway

 Tribune Report

 Published at 04:28 pm December 7th, 2021


The government will install weight scales at 21 points on the highways in other parts of the country in phases to help maintain the durability of the roads

Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam has urged the government to lift the weight scales on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway to reduce transportation costs.

In a letter to Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Monday, CCCI President said: “Businessmen from Chittagong  are facing uneven competition from the rest part of the country as weight lifting scale on the Dhaka-Chittagong  Highway has been installed”

He said the country’s wholesale markets for consumers goods have been developed at Khatunganj, Chaktai, Asadganj and Korbaniganj while the wholesale market of rice has grown at Pahartali area.

As the government has not installed weight scales in other parts of the country, businessmen from Chittagong are facing uneven competition as transport costs have increased for them.

The CCCI Head added that the country’s 82% export and imports are being conducted through the Chittagong port.

Weight scales were installed at Sitakunda and Mirersaria areas with a ceiling of 13 tons per vehicle. 

Mahbubul Alam claimed that putting a limit has increased transport costs from the port city to the other parts of the country.

He said, Chittagong alone contributes 12% to the GDP of the country.

Some large industries like steel, cement, shipbuilding and recycling industries have been developed over the years in Chittagong based on geography and port and infrastructure facilities.

CCCI leaders also urged that the Bangladesh Roads and Transport Authority and Roads and Highways lift weight scales on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.

Meanwhile, Chief Engineer of Roads and Highways Md Abdus Sabur while talking to the Dhaka Tribune said the government will install weight scales at 21 points on the highways in other parts of the country in phases to help keep the durability of the roads.

He said over-loading of goods over a certain level damages the roads causing a loss to the government funds as they need repairing frequently.


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08 December, 2021, 06:05 pm

Last modified: 08 December, 2021, 06:05 pm

Dhaka East West Elevated Expressway to be built on PPP basis



The government today approved a proposal in principle to implement the Dhaka East West Elevated Expressway project to be built on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis to minimise the traffic congestion in Dhaka and adjacent areas.

The approval came from the 34th meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in this year held today virtually with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in the chair.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Md Shamsul Arefin said that many companies are now showing their interest to be associated with this project and once the tender is floated, the responsive bidders would be selected through competition.

Arefin said that after the tender process, the proposal would then come before the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP).

He informed that the expressway would be elevated while the estimated cost of the expressway is around Tk16,000 crore.

Answering to a question, the Cabinet Division Additional Secretary said that the possible route of the expressway is Dhaka-Aricha (Boliarpur) to Lalgalbandh of Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj via Keraniganj, Narayanganj Sadar and Bandar upazila.

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চলতি অর্থবছরের প্রথম প্রান্তিক

বিদেশী বিনিয়োগ প্রস্তাব সবচেয়ে বেশি কৃষিভিত্তিক শিল্প খাতে

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক

ডিসেম্বর ১০, ২০২১


চলতি ২০২১-২২ অর্থবছরের প্রথম প্রান্তিকে বিনিয়োগ প্রকল্প প্রস্তাব বেড়েছে ৪৬ শতাংশ। স্থানীয় বিনিয়োগে সবচেয়ে বেশি প্রস্তাব ছিল কেমিক্যাল শিল্প খাতে। বিদেশী বিনিয়োগের প্রস্তাব সবচেয়ে বেশি ছিল কৃষিভিত্তিক শিল্প খাতে। নিবন্ধিত শিল্পের ত্রৈমাসিক পরিসংখ্যানের এসব তথ্য জানিয়েছে বাংলাদেশ বিনিয়োগ উন্নয়ন কর্তৃপক্ষ (বিডা)।

বিডার তথ্য অনুযায়ী, চলতি অর্থবছরের জুলাই-সেপ্টেম্বর—এ তিন মাসে মোট ১৮৯টি শিল্পপ্রতিষ্ঠান নিবন্ধিত হয়েছে। প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলোর প্রস্তাবিত মোট বিনিয়োগের পরিমাণ ২০ হাজার ৪৬৩ কোটি ৯২ লাখ ৭ হাজার টাকা, যা ২০২০-২১ অর্থবছরের জুলাই-সেপ্টেম্বর সময়ের চেয়ে ৬ হাজার ৪৭৯ কোটি ৫১ লাখ ৪৫ হাজার টাকা বেশি। কভিডের প্রভাবে গত অর্থবছরের একই সময়ে প্রস্তাবিত মোট বিনিয়োগের পরিমাণ ছিল ১৩ হাজার ৯৮৪ কোটি ৪০ লাখ ৫২ হাজার টাকা। অর্থবছরের জুলাই-সেপ্টেম্বর সময়ে ৬ হাজার ৪৭৯ কোটি ৫১ লাখ ৪৫ হাজার টাকার বিনিয়োগ প্রস্তাব বেশি। এ হিসেবে চলতি প্রস্তাব বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে ৪৬ দশমিক ৩৩ শতাংশ।

আলোচ্য তিন মাসে স্থানীয় বিনিয়োগের নিবন্ধিত শিল্প ইউনিট ছিল ১৭৭টি। প্রকল্প প্রস্তাবের অর্থমূল্য ১৮ হাজার ৫৮৬ কোটি ৫২ লাখ ৯২ হাজার টাকা, যা ২০২০-২১ অর্থবছরের জুলাই-সেপ্টেম্বরের চেয়ে ৫ হাজার ৮৮৭ কোটি ৩৯ লাখ ৬১ হাজার টাকা বেশি। গত অর্থবছরের ওই সময়ে নিবন্ধিত শিল্প ইউনিট ১৯৬টি। প্রকল্পগুলোয় প্রস্তাবিত বিনিয়োগের পরিমাণ ছিল ১২ হাজার ৬৯৯ কোটি ১৩ লাখ ৩১ হাজার টাকা। এ হিসেবে স্থানীয় বিনিয়োগ প্রস্তাব বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে ৪৬ দশমিক ৩৬ শতাংশ।

স্থানীয় বিনিয়োগে তিন মাসে সবচেয়ে বেশি প্রস্তাব ছিল কেমিক্যাল শিল্প খাতে। এছাড়া প্রস্তাব আসা উল্লেখযোগ্য খাতগুলোর মধ্যে ছিল সার্ভিস, ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং ও টেক্সটাইল শিল্প খাতে।

চলতি অর্থবছরের প্রথম প্রান্তিকে প্রস্তাবিত বিদেশী বিনিয়োগের মধ্যে সাতটি ছিল শতভাগ বিদেশী। পাঁচটি ছিল যৌথ বিনিয়োগের প্রস্তাব। নিবন্ধিত শিল্প ইউনিটগুলোর প্রস্তাবিত বিনিয়োগের পরিমাণ ছিল ১ হাজার ৮৭৭ কোটি ৩৯ লাখ ১৫ হাজার টাকা। ২০২০-২১ অর্থবছরের চেয়ে প্রথম প্রান্তিকে ২০টি নিবন্ধিত শিল্পের প্রস্তাবিত বিনিয়োগের পরিমাণ ছিল ১ হাজার ২৮৫ কোটি ২৭ লাখ ৩১ হাজার টাকা। এ হিসেবে বিদেশী বিনিয়োগ প্রস্তাব বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে ৪৬ দশমিক শূন্য ৭ শতাংশ।

বিদেশী বিনিয়োগে তিন মাসে সবচেয়ে বেশি প্রস্তাব ছিল কৃষিভিত্তিক শিল্প খাতে। এছাড়া নিবন্ধিত প্রস্তাবের উল্লেখযোগ্য খাতগুলোর মধ্যে ছিল টেক্সটাইল, সার্ভিস ও ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং শিল্প। বিডা জানিয়েছে, আলোচ্য তিন মাসে নিবন্ধিত মোট ১৮৯টি শিল্পে ২৮ হাজার ৮৫০ সংখ্যক জনবলের কর্মসংস্থানের সুযোগ সৃষ্টি হবে।

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Marine drive expressway project likely from 2022

Feasibility study by December

 MIR MOSTAFIZUR RAHAMAN |  December 11, 2021 00:00:00



The much-hyped 230-kilometre marine drive expressway work from Sitakunda to Cox's Bazar is likely to start next year on completion of a feasibility study by December, officials have said.

Road transport and bridges ministry, the implementer of the Tk 250-billion project, states that the awarding of the contract may start after the study.

A plan is afoot to pick a contractor from among Chinese companies through tender to execute the project by Chinese funds on a G2G (government-government) basis, according to the officials.

The ministry concerned in a letter to the ERD recently said the contractor selection process might begin after the completion of the feasibility study, they cited.

The feasibility of the project started on 20 August 2020 and is expected to finish by this December 31.

Earlier, Dhaka scrapped a deal with the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd for the project 'Construction of marine drive expressway and coastal protection work from Sitakunda-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar'.

In September 2016, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved the project under a direct purchase method.

China committed to financing the project during the Dhaka visit of President Xi Jinping back in 2016.

The Sitakunda-Cox's Bazar freeway will be connected with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor and the Asian Highway.

The project includes around 100 bridges and 80 kilometres of coastal protection work.

As planned, the marine drive will link at least 10 special economic zones in Chattogram region, a deep seaport and a coal-fired power plant at Moheshkhali.

It will also get connected to Chattogram port, Matarbari deep seaport, under-construction Bay terminal in Patenga and a proposed mini-port on Sitakunda coast.

Planning ministry officials say the project will turn the long seashore from Mirsarai to Teknaf into a hub of industries and tourism.

A number of economic zones-two at Anwara and Mirsarai, the country's biggest-and major projects like a deep seaport and a power hub at Moheshkhali are under construction along the coast.

Starting from Jorarganj of Mirsarai, the road will run along the coastal embankment of Mirsarai-Sitakunda using Bangabandhu tunnel to the other side of the Karnaphuli and from there to Cox's Bazar via Banshkhali and Chakaria upazilas.

The expressway will touch the existing 80-kilometre Cox's Bazar-Teknaf marine drive after crossing 150 kilometre through Cox's Bazar and 80 kilometre via Chattogram.

On the coastal protection component of the project, the official said, the project is designed to keep the entire area free from the risk of any disaster.

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Abul Kashem

09 December, 2021, 10:40 pm

Last modified: 10 December, 2021, 02:42 pm

Road maintenance cost to come from price of fuel, tolls, taxes, fees: draft policy says

The draft, signed by the department's Deputy Secretary Farzana Jasmine, was sent to the ministry concerned on Tuesday. It asked for further review and comments by 25 December




  • Govt to collect Tk1 per litre, cubic metre of fuel used by transport
  • Additional cost for transport owners expected to be over Tk5,000cr annually
  • Budget for maintenance last fiscal year was Tk2,687cr
  • 47,76, 944 registered vehicles across the country
  • Fund embezzlement, further rise in transport cost fear

The government is mulling collecting road maintenance charges from the price of fuel used by road vehicles, stoking fears of a further increase in transport prices.

In a draft of the Road Maintenance Fund Board Rules-2021, the Department of Road Transport and Highways proposed that the government collect Tk1 per litre and cubic metre from the price of fuel, including petrol, octane, diesel, CNG or LNG, used in all types of motor vehicles such as buses, private cars, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws and trucks.

The money will be spent on maintenance, repair and renovation of highways.

The draft, signed by the department's Deputy Secretary Farzana Jasmine, was sent to the ministry concerned on Tuesday. It asked for further review and comments by 25 December.

The Business Standard has obtained a copy of the draft. 

According to the annual reports of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and Petrobangla, if road maintenance charges are levied at the rate of Tk1 per litre of fuel oil used in motor vehicles and per cubic metre for Compressed natural gas (CNG) and Liquefied natural gas (LNG), vehicle owners will have to bear more than Tk14 crore per day, which will be around over Tk5,000cr annually. 

As a result, passengers will also have to pay extra fare and the cost of transporting goods will increase further. 

A recent report by the Ministry of Home Affairs had said that the general public is dissatisfied with the increase in fares of passenger and freight vehicles following the rise in diesel prices.

According to the annual report of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources for the fiscal year 2019-2020, the amount of CNG used daily by vehicles is 13.36 crore cubic feet. In other words, Tk13.36cr will be deposited daily to the road maintenance fund from here.

In the last fiscal year 2020-2021, BPC supplied 39.64 lakh tonnes of fuel oil for transports. If a charge of Tk1 per litre is levied, the annual maintenance charge generated from fuel oil will be Tk396 crore.

At present, the Ministry of Finance allocates funds in the budget every year for the repair and maintenance of roads, highways and bridges. 

In the fiscal year 2020-21, the allocation for this was Tk2,687cr, of which almost the entire amount was spent. 

If a road maintenance fund is formed, the money will be spent from here.

According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, the number of registered motor vehicles across the country till 30 June was 47,76,944. Most of the public transport and private vehicles are gas-powered, while trucks and goods-carrying vehicles and motorcycles are oil-powered.

All existing fees, taxes and import duties for the registration and movement of various vehicles plying on the road have been asked to be included in the road maintenance fund. 

In addition, the roads and highways department has proposed adding 100% of the toll collected from roads, bridges and ferries under it and 25% of the toll collected by the Bangladesh Bridge Authority to this fund.

Professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and transport expert Shamsul Haque told The Business Standard that in 2000, when the BNP was in power, an initiative was taken to set up the fund with the help of the World Bank. But it did not materialise due to a dispute between the then ministers M Saifur Rahman and Nazmul Huda over whether the fund would be controlled by the finance ministry or the communications ministry.

When the law was finally enacted in 2013, it was discussed that 2% of the total cost of any infrastructure project should be allocated for maintenance, which has not been done yet. New roads are being constructed, but the charge for maintenance isn't being set aside.

"Imposing road maintenance charges on the cost of fuel, including diesel and CNG, does not make sense now because the price of fuel changes globally…it will put pressure on the people," he said.

"In my opinion, this fund can be formed with all kinds of BRTA fees and taxes and all kinds of tolls," he said. In future, the government will impose tolls on all highways and then the fund will be much bigger. If additional funds are required for road maintenance, alternative sources may be sought.

An official of the maintenance branch of the department, who did not want to be named, told TBS that the policy was being formulated under the Road Maintenance Fund Board Act, 2013 and implementation of the policy would be done after issuing a gazette following the approval of the cabinet within the current financial year.

According to the draft rules, a board will be formed to manage the road maintenance fund. Other expenses, including salaries and allowances of the officers and employees of the board, will also be from the fund.

The roads and highways department will send the proposed road maintenance and repair programme to the board for the next financial year within the last three months of each financial year.

The board will meet in the first month of the financial year to examine the proposal and approve it in consultation with the Roads and Highways Department. The board will send the approved programme to the department for implementation.

In addition to the annual programme, in case of emergency, subject to the approval of the board meeting in consultation with the government, the department may be responsible for the implementation of any emergency programme.

Md Shamsul Huq, however, expressed fear of embezzling the funds. He said that projects like construction of flyovers and roads are visible so misappropriation of funds can be observed. But road maintenance was not like this and there would be more opportunities for wrong doings. 

"Therefore, road maintenance activities need to be independently evaluated by third parties…," he added.

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Abul Kashem

11 December, 2021, 10:30 pm

Last modified: 11 December, 2021, 10:37 pm

Still a tall task to woo Japanese investors 

A meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday will assess the progress on business issues raised by Japanese investors  



A dedicated immigration counter for foreign investors at the country's main airport and allowing telegraphic transfer of import bills — these are some of the simple expectations of Japanese investors in Bangladesh.

None of the issues required a billion-dollar infrastructure project, rather just some paperwork of a few departments was enough to address those.

But little happened since a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister's Office took note of the Japanese concerns and instructed the government's relevant authorities to act upon those in August 2020.

After 16 months, the PMO has convened government high-ups to a meeting today to take stock of the list of issues identified by Japanese businesses and how much of the commitments made to address those were implemented by the government offices concerned.

The reality is, most of the issues are yet to be addressed, except reducing fees for motorcycle registration, arrangements for dumping old machinery brought in under a bond facility and allowing empty export containers to carry bonded goods.

Meanwhile, cash incentives for foreign investors, equivalent wages both in and outside of the export processing zones (EPZs) and waiving of value-added tax (VAT) for EPZ investors remain high on the unaddressed issues.

According to the PMO meeting agenda, Japanese investors identified 16 issues related to tax and foreign exchange, and 11 issues related to investment climate in doing business in Bangladesh. Most of those were discussed last year, but are not addressed yet.   

Asked why the government is too slow to respond to Japanese investors' concerns at a time when Bida is trying all-out to woo foreign investment, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) Executive Chairman Sirazul Islam said the expected actions are being delayed since the issues involve a number of ministries and agencies such as the commerce ministry, the National Board of Revenue and the Bangladesh Bank.

"You better ask them why they are delaying. Maybe, there are pros and cons which are to be looked into," he told The Business Standard yesterday.

At the August meeting last year, all ministries and agencies concerned were given time-bound targets to take steps to resolve issues within their jurisdictions. 

Today's meeting is expected to hear explanations from secretaries to as many as 14 ministries apart from the central bank governor and chief executives of investment promotional agencies–- Bida, Bepza, Beza and PPP Authority.    

Citing the issue of telegraphic transfer of import bills, the Bida chief said the commerce ministry might be in a dilemma over the issue as it is feared that the offer might widen the scope for money-laundering.

Telegraphic transfers are allowed from all countries except Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Bida chief pointed out, citing Japanese investors' observations. 

The privilege, if given, would not be limited to Japanese investors alone and investors from countries with lax law enforcement might misuse it, he noted, referring to commerce ministry's concern.

He, however, said Bida has progressed on solving two specific issues under its jurisdiction, including the one for allowing operation of local offices.

Royalty remittance has already been lowered to 6% in response to Japanese investors' demand, but they want complete abolition, which might not be practical for the government, the Bida chief explained.

Affirming the government's commitment to extend all possible policy support for Japanese investors, Sirazul Islam pinned hopes on the Japanese Economic Zone, which is in progress in Narayanganj's Araihazar and will be a focus of Japanese investment once completed.

Are the yen hopes fizzling out?

Money grows on the tree of persistence: this Japanese proverb on consistency points at what the Japanese business communities believe and what Bangladesh could have done better to attract more Japanese yen to Bangladesh.

With Covid ravaging China around one and a half years ago, Japan announced incentives to its companies to shift manufacturing facilities out of China and added Bangladesh to a list of preferred destinations for relocating the factories.

Following the Island nation's factory relocation bid, Bangladesh's top policymaking level bolstered its efforts to lure Japanese investments as well as to settle the issues Japanese investors had already been facing in Bangladesh.    

After talking to Japanese entrepreneurs who already had businesses in Bangladesh, several committees were formed to settle the business issues but not much has been achieved.    

The PMO on 16 August last year had given relevant ministries "a week or two" to quickly resolve the issues faced by Japanese firms in Bangladesh, who complained of being treated with "inequalities" in terms of export support between local and foreign business entities.

The finance ministry was asked to provide foreign companies in Bangladesh with incentives at the same rate as enjoyed by local businesses from the current fiscal year.

One of the committees was formed with top officials of the Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue and Ministry of Finance to look into the issues of banking transactions, taxation issues and customs delays.

Another one incorporated officials from the revenue board, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) and other investment related offices to find ways to incentivise foreign investors and report back to the PMO.

But no official circular has so far been made by relevant offices in this regard.

Since Japan's adoption of the "China plus one" policy, the country did not get a single factory relocation offer as the existing Japanese firms are still not happy.


The lazy response has prompted Japanese officials and diplomats to repeat their concerns at various occasions, including the international investment summit held by Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) in November this year.

At a recent programme in Chattogram, Japanese ambassador Ito Naoki, while expressing his country's interest in more investment in Bangladesh, reminded the authorities of the worries of existing Japanese companies about their problems in doing business here.

"Delays in customs clearance, various taxations, restrictions on telegraphic transfer of import payments, discrimination in export incentives, better environment in EPZs and SEZs [special economic zones] are still among their concerns," the ambassador said, referring to message of Japanese vice minister for foreign affairs sent to the Bida investment summit.  

Use it, or lose it

Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, a member of the commerce ministry task force to attract Japanese investors and also a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said the pandemic slowed down potential Japanese investments in Bangladesh.

The commerce ministry task force member agrees to a number of proposals by the Japanese investors including export incentive for EPZ factories and access to Covid stimulus fund.

The former business leader believes logical and feasible proposals by the Japanese investors should be implemented expeditiously. Besides, those that are not possible to work on should be made clear too.

"If the problems are left unsolved for a long time, Japanese investors may lose interest in Bangladesh and go away," he noted.

Oft-repeated worries

The Japanese side, in proposals to be presented at today's meeting, said security deposit for power connection has been imposed on companies in EPZ abruptly and without explanation. The deposit amount is as high as more than Tk1 crore, while some firms are getting a new electricity connection without the payment.

EPZ companies can import machinery duty free. But the firms cannot bring in spare parts for those machines without paying tax, said Japanese investors.   

The delays for immigration clearance at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka were also raised by Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) in an inter-ministerial meeting.

"Sometimes, it even takes 3-4 hours to complete the immigration process," Yuji Ando, Jetro country representative, told the event.

Civil aviation and airport officials claim the situation would improve once the third terminal is completed.

The work on the terminal has seen 22% progress so far and is expected to be completed by the 2023 deadline, meaning that having additional immigration facilities will have to wait until then.

The same issue will be presented again in today's meeting.

The meeting agenda includes Japan's previous request to improve immigration process at the airport and getting visa-on-arrival, which now takes 3-4 hours. Getting customs clearance at both seaport and airport is also a problem for the investors as it now takes 16 days at the seaport and 8 days at the airport.

Japanese investors want the existing law for mandatory wage hike in EPZ be removed as minimum wage differs widely between factories in and outside EPZs.

Though local companies get export incentives, foreign-owned companies and joint ventures in EPZ are not getting the support. The Japan side points out that those EPZ companies also should qualify for the cash incentive.       

According to documents of the PMO meeting to be held today, Japanese investors have sought long-term foreign loans from parent companies as working capital, low-cost short-term foreign loans and allowing regional project offices to send remittances to Japan.        

Japanese investors have also proposed to abolish the royalty and technical fees, and simplify the procedure for royalty remittance.

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দেশে ভালো সড়ক সবচেয়ে বেশি পঞ্চগড়ে

শামীম রাহমান

ডিসেম্বর ১৩, ২০২১


সড়ক ও জনপথ (সওজ) অধিদপ্তরের নিয়ন্ত্রণে ছয়টি সড়ক রয়েছে পঞ্চগড়ে। এর একটি ৭১ কিলোমিটার দীর্ঘ জাতীয় মহাসড়ক। বাকিগুলো জেলা মহাসড়ক। কোনো আঞ্চলিক সড়ক নেই। সব মিলিয়ে পঞ্চগড়ে সওজের সড়ক নেটওয়ার্কের দৈর্ঘ্য ১৮২ দশমিক ৫ কিলোমিটার। সওজের মহাসড়ক উন্নয়ন ও রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ (এইচডিএম) সার্কেলের তথ্য বলছে, নেটওয়ার্কভুক্ত সড়কের ৮৭ দশমিক শূন্য ২ শতাংশই রয়েছে ভালো অবস্থায়। শতাংশের এ হিসাবে দেশে পঞ্চগড়ের চেয়ে বেশি ‘ভালো সড়ক’ আর কোনো জেলায় নেই। পঞ্চগড় সড়ক বিভাগের প্রকৌশলীরা বলছেন, গুণগত মানের নির্মাণকাজ, নিয়মিত ও সঠিকভাবে সংস্কার-রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ ভালো মানের সড়কের দিক দিয়ে পঞ্চগড়কে এগিয়ে রেখেছে।

বাংলাবান্ধা থেকে ঠাকুরগাঁও-পঞ্চগড় সীমান্ত পর্যন্ত ৭১ কিলোমিটার দীর্ঘ জাতীয় মহাসড়কটি (এন-৫) নির্মাণ হয় ২০০৯-১০ সালে। পরবর্তী সময়ে নিয়মিত ও সময়ভিত্তিক রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ ছাড়া মহাসড়কটিতে বড় ধরনের আর কোনো সংস্কারের প্রয়োজন হয়নি বলে জানিয়েছেন সওজ পঞ্চগড়ের নির্বাহী প্রকৌশলী মো. মনিরুজ্জামান। তিনি বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, ‘পঞ্চগড়ের ছয়টি সড়কের মধ্যে সবক’টিই ভালো অবস্থানে রয়েছে। সড়ক নেটওয়ার্ককে আরো ভালো অবস্থায় নিয়ে যেতে আমরা নিরলস কাজ করে যাচ্ছি।’

পঞ্চগড়ের পার্শ্ববর্তী জেলা ঠাকুরগাঁওয়ের সড়ক অবকাঠামোও রয়েছে ভালো অবস্থায়। জেলার ৮০ দশমিক ১৩ শতাংশ সড়ক ভালো। অন্যদিকে ভালো সড়কের দিক দিয়ে পঞ্চগড়ের পরেই অবস্থান পদ্মাপারের জেলা ফরিদপুরের। এইচডিএমের হিসাবে ফরিদপুরের ৮৪ দশমিক ৪৬ শতাংশ সড়ক ভালো। একইভাবে ৭৯ দশমিক ৯১ শতাংশ ও ৭৯ দশমিক ২ শতাংশ ভালো সড়ক রয়েছে যথাক্রমে শেরপুর ও রাজশাহী জেলায়।

সারা দেশে সওজের সড়ক নেটওয়ার্ক ১০টি জোনে বিভক্ত। এইচডিএমের তথ্য বলছে, ভালো সড়কের দিক দিয়ে উত্তরাঞ্চলের রংপুর ও রাজশাহী—দুই জোনেরই সড়ক অবকাঠামো ভালো অবস্থায় রয়েছে। পঞ্চগড়, ঠাকুরগাঁও বাদে রংপুর জোনের অন্য জেলাগুলোর মধ্যে বগুড়ার ৬৯ দশমিক ৭৭ শতাংশ, দিনাজপুরের ৭৩ দশমিক ১৩, গাইবান্ধার ৭৫ দশমিক ৯২, জয়পুরহাটের ৭৫ দশমিক ১৪, কুড়িগ্রামের ৭১ দশমিক ৪৭, লালমনিরহাটের ৬৬ দশমিক ৭১, নীলফামারীর ৭২ দশমিক ৮৩ ও রংপুরের ৭৪ দশমিক ৪৫ শতাংশ সড়ক রয়েছে ভালো অবস্থায়। সার্বিকভাবে সওজের রংপুর জোনের ৭০ শতাংশের বেশি সড়ক রয়েছে ভালো অবস্থায়। অন্যদিকে দেশের অন্য জেলাগুলোর মধ্যে ৭০ শতাংশের বেশি ভালো সড়ক রয়েছে মাগুরা, চুয়াডাঙ্গা, কিশোরগঞ্জ, নওগাঁ, চাঁপাইনবাবগঞ্জ ও সিলেটে।

রংপুর অঞ্চলের সড়ক অবকাঠামো ভালো হওয়ার জন্য এ অঞ্চলের মাটি বড় ভূমিকা রাখছে বলে মনে করেন সওজের রংপুর জোনের অতিরিক্ত প্রধান প্রকৌশলী মোহাম্মদ মনিরুজ্জামান। তিনি বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, এ অঞ্চলে সড়ক নির্মাণের ক্ষেত্রে খুব উঁচু বাঁধের প্রয়োজন হয় না। এজন্য দেশের দক্ষিণাঞ্চলের তুলনায় এ অঞ্চলে সড়ক রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ তুলনামূলক সহজ। রংপুর জোনের সড়ক অবকাঠামো ভালো হওয়ার পেছনে আরেকটি বড় কারণ উন্নত মানের পাথর ব্যবহার। স্থানীয় স্থলবন্দরগুলো দিয়ে সহজেই ভারত থেকে উন্নতমানের পাথর আমদানি করা যায়। ঠিকাদাররা যেন উন্নয়নকাজে এসব উন্নতমানের পাথর ব্যবহার করেন তা আমরা নিশ্চিত করার চেষ্টা করি। এর বাইরে রংপুর জোনের সড়ক উন্নয়নকাজে স্থানীয় ঠিকাদারদের বদলে দেশের স্বনামধন্য ঠিকাদারদের নিযুক্ত করে গুণগত মান বজায় রেখে সড়ক অবকাঠামো নির্মাণ ও সেগুলো রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ করা হয়। সার্বিকভাবে এসব বিষয় সড়ক অবকাঠামোকে টেকসই করতে ভূমিকা রাখছে।

বিদ্যমান সড়কগুলো বাস্তব অবস্থা যাচাইয়ের জন্য প্রতি বছরই জরিপ করে সওজের এইচডিএম সার্কেল। অত্যাধুনিক যন্ত্রের সাহায্যে বের করা হয় সড়কের ইন্টারন্যাশনাল রাফনেস ইনডেক্স (আইআরআই) ভ্যালু। জরিপ করা সড়কগুলোর মান পরীক্ষা করে শূন্য থেকে ১২ পর্যন্ত নম্বর দেয়া হয়। আইআরআই ভ্যালু অনুযায়ী, নম্বর যত কম, সড়ক তত ভালো। এইচডিএমের সর্বশেষ জরিপটি করা হয়েছে গত বছরের নভেম্বর থেকে চলতি বছরের মার্চ পর্যন্ত সময়ের মধ্যে। সওজের সাড়ে ২২ হাজার কিলোমিটার সড়কের মধ্যে জরিপ করা হয়েছে সাড়ে ১৮ হাজার কিলোমিটার সড়ক।

উত্তরাঞ্চলের জেলাগুলোর ঠিক উল্টো পরিস্থিতি রয়েছে দেশের পার্বত্য অঞ্চলের সড়ক অবকাঠামোগুলো। খারাপ সড়কের দিক দিয়ে শীর্ষে রয়েছে খাগড়াছড়ি। জেলার ৩৫ দশমিক ৭৭ শতাংশ সড়ক খারাপ। বিপরীতে ভালো সড়কের পরিমাণ ৩৩ দশমিক ৬৪ শতাংশ। বান্দরবানে খারাপ সড়কের পরিমাণ ৩১ দশমিক ৪৭ শতাংশ। আর জেলাটিতে ভালো সড়ক আছে ৩৩ দশমিক ৩২ শতাংশ। খাগড়াছড়ি, বান্দরবানের তুলনায় কিছুটা ভালো অবস্থানে রয়েছে রাঙ্গামাটি। জেলার ৪৬ দশমিক ৩১ শতাংশ সড়ক ভালো বলে উঠে এসেছে এইচডিএমের জরিপে। দেশের অন্য জেলাগুলোর মধ্যে মৌলভীবাজারে ৩৪ দশমিক ১৭ শতাংশ, চাঁদপুরে ৩০ দশমিক ৮৫ শতাংশ, ব্রাহ্মণবাড়িয়ায় ৩০ দশমিক ২৪ শতাংশ সড়ক রয়েছে খারাপ অবস্থায়।

দেশজুড়ে সওজের নেটওয়ার্কে থাকা সড়কের পরিমাণ সাড়ে ২২ হাজার কিলোমিটার। এর মধ্যে চার লেনের সড়কের পরিমাণ ৫০০ কিলোমিটার। আট আর ছয় লেনের সড়ক মোটে ৩৮ কিলোমিটার। গত জুনে প্রকাশিত এইচডিএম সার্কেলের প্রতিবেদনের তথ্য বলছে, সওজের নেটওয়ার্কে থাকা ৩ হাজার ৬৪৭ কিলোমিটার সড়ক রয়েছে খারাপ অবস্থায়। এর মধ্যে ৮৩৯ কিলোমিটার সড়কের অবস্থা ‘খুবই খারাপ’। ‘খারাপ’ অবস্থায় রয়েছে ৯৫০ কিলোমিটার সড়ক। বেশ দুর্বল অবস্থায় রয়েছে আরো প্রায় ১ হাজার ৮৫০ কিলোমিটার সড়ক। এসব সড়ক মেরামত করতে প্রায় ১৫ হাজার কোটি টাকার চাহিদার কথা জানিয়েছে এইচডিএম।

দেশের সাড়ে তিন হাজার কিলোমিটারের বেশি সড়ক অবকাঠামো খারাপ অবস্থায় থাকলেও সওজের প্রকৌশলীরা বলছেন, দেশের সড়ক অবকাঠামো ক্রমান্বয়ে ভালো অবস্থার দিকে যাচ্ছে। এ প্রসঙ্গে সওজের প্রধান প্রকৌশলী আবদুস সবুর বলেন, সড়ক নির্মাণে আমরা উন্নতমানের বিটুমিন ব্যবহার শুরু করেছি। পাথরসহ বিভিন্ন ধরনের নির্মাণসামগ্রীর মানের দিকেও আমরা সর্বোচ্চ গুরুত্ব দিচ্ছি। টেকসই মহাসড়ক নেটওয়ার্ক গড়ে তুলতে পরিকল্পনা থেকে শুরু করে নকশা ও নির্মাণশৈলীতেও আমরা যুগের সঙ্গে তাল মিলিয়ে চলার জন্য যেসব উদ্যোগ নেয়া দরকার, তার সবই গ্রহণ করছি। এসবের প্রভাব পড়তে শুরু করেছে দেশের সড়ক অবকাঠামোর মানে।

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Mubin S Khan & Masum Billah

13 December, 2021, 10:45 am

Last modified: 13 December, 2021, 10:43 am

Why is there no McDonald’s in Bangladesh?

Global fast-food franchises began making forays into the Bangladeshi market in the 1990s. However, some factors continue to keep the world’s most famous fast-food chain at bay 



McDonald’s sells a certain style of production and management, a certain theory of economic operations and a lifestyle for its consumers. Photo: Bloomberg

In many ways, a burger is the last thing McDonald's sells.

Founded in 1940 as a restaurant, McDonald's is not just the most famous fast-food chain on Earth, it is also an important symbol of globalisation and economic liberalisation.  

In international relations and economics literature, the term McDonald's almost carries theoretical relevance. The Economist magazine publishes a Big Mac Index (after the signature sandwich on the McDonald's menu) every year, testing what currencies are overvalued compared to the US.

The New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman once famously quipped "No two countries that both have a McDonald's have ever fought a war against each other," (although not literally true, but Freidman's larger point about McDonald's playing an important role in the integration and stability of the world economy certainly rings true.)

McDonald's, in essence, does not just sell a burger, it sells a certain style of production and management, a certain theory of economic operations and a lifestyle for its consumers.

And it has done this extraordinarily successfully. There are nearly 38,000-39,000 McDonald's restaurants in around 120 countries, serving a staggering 68 million consumers every day.

Which therefore begs the question: Why is there no McDonald's in Bangladesh? 

After all, Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, will graduate to developing country status in 2026 and aims to become a developed country by 2041. 

Even Pakistan has an astonishing 72 outlets of McDonald's and the restaurant has been in that country since 1998.

Global fast-food franchises began making forays into the Bangladeshi market in the mid to late 1990s, starting with lesser-known names such as Southern Fried Chicken and Wimpy. Then in the 2000s, the big names – Pizza Hut and KFC - burst into the scene. 

Both arrived with fanfare. 

For months, the construction of the first outlets was kept literally under wraps; and for at least a month after its launch, you would find queues outside the restaurants that reached about half a kilometre. 

Today, fast-food franchises are a dime a dozen in the metropolis of Dhaka. You have Japanese chains such as Sushi Tei, numerous chains that originate from Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore, and just about every other global big name – such as Burger King and Domino's – that are not just located in the major neighbourhoods of the capital city, but a number of other large cities in the country as well. 

Some, like Nandos, Baskin-Robbins and Krispy Kreme, came and then left. 

And yet, the jewel in the crown – McDonald's – is nowhere in sight. 

The trail runs cold

To find an answer as to why McDonald's never set up shop in Bangladesh, we actually started by reaching out to McDonald's itself. We received a generic response over e-mail a few days later. 

"McDonald's does not have any plans to open restaurants in new markets in the foreseeable future. McDonald's is focused on improving our existing restaurant base rather than opening restaurants in countries where we do not currently have a presence."  

That is certainly true to an extent. 

Although McDonald's expanded into new markets aggressively in the 1980s and 1990s, since 2000, they have opened restaurants in only six new countries. Nonetheless, McDonald's continues to aggressively expand in markets where they already have a presence and reportedly opened around 1,000 restaurants during the pandemic. 

For Bangladesh, however, the absence of McDonald's arguably has less to do with their strategy and more to do with their business model, the country's volatile real estate market and its weak cold chain.  

McDonald's, unlike the other international brands operating here, have very strict requirements of franchisees, including high investment costs that include 40 percent of the construction cost as down payment, $45,000 as franchising fee, and 4 percent of monthly sales revenue as a royalty fee. 

According to Franchise Business Review, setting up McDonald's usually involves an investment of anywhere between $1.2 million to 2.2 million. 

"The brands here in Bangladesh already are quite flexible, compared to others like McDonald's," says Rajeeb Samdani, the Managing Director of Golden Harvest, the company behind the launch of Domino's Pizza in Bangladesh. 

"McDonald's is extremely strict. For example, from harvesting the potatoes in the field to turning them into fries, McDonald's ensures complete traceability - by maintaining a cold chain in every step. We do not have the cold chain infrastructure that is required for all these. Bangladesh would have more food franchises if we had the cold chain infrastructure," he adds.

"For Bangladesh, however, the absence of McDonald's arguably has less to do with their strategy and more to do with their business model, the country's volatile real estate market and its weak cold chain. "

According to Samdani, an investor looking to launch McDonald's in Bangladesh would not only struggle to meet the franchisor's strict requirements but would need an additional investment of Tk200 to Tk300 crore just on setting up the logistics. 

Akku Chowdhury, former Managing Director of Transcom Foods Limited – the company behind Pizza Hut and KFC in Bangladesh – concurred.

"From the beef to everything else in McDonald's has to be frozen, frozen, frozen! Everything has to be imported from outside. And that can be very difficult. For example, what would you do during Covid-19 or strikes when there is a supply chain disruption?"

According to Chowdhury, even Pizza Hut had to import the flour for the pizza dough from Australia at first. 

"We had to wait a long time to find a local flour that they approved of. We had to wait two years to get KFC here because the poultry we served had to be fed in a certain way, had to be properly taken care of, etc. And we had to audit it. We also needed to have an animal welfare officer."

The agro-processing sector in Bangladesh accounts for only 1.8 percent of the GDP, Samdani pointed out. "This makes it very complicated to source ingredients locally," he added. 

According to Chowdhury, McDonald's had been looking to enter the Bangladeshi market even before Pizza Hut and KFC arrived but were discouraged by the absence of cold storage.

"When we came, we found only two cold storages. Only one of them was somehow acceptable, but it was not good enough. For each of our outlets, we had to have a refrigerator room and a chiller room, whereas McDonald's requires a whole system for it."

McDonald's appears to take it a step further when it comes to requirements. 

Instead of profiting from franchisee and royalty fees, McDonald's generates more of its revenue from real estate. According to Wall Street Survivor, the company owns 45 percent of the land and 70 percent of the buildings of their total outlets.   

In Bangladesh, real estate is expensive, even by global standards. Secondly, real estate prices in places like Gulshan and Baridhara – where the most affluent and enthusiastic crowd for global franchises reside – are exorbitant. 

Furthermore, even in places like these, buildings are not often compliant with local and international regulations. Many franchises have folded, while the existing ones' struggle, largely due to high real estate expenses.

"We opened KFC and Pizza Hut in Gulshan because we had the space easily available. When it comes to KFC and Pizza Hut, we could not just run it anywhere because the building needs to be approved by RAJUK. I had to personally dig into whether the building was approved by RAJUK for commercial use," Chowdhury recalled. 

"It took us a long time to open in Dhanmondi. If I had it my way, I would have opened in Dhanmondi first. But finding a legally compliant building in Dhanmondi was very difficult back then."

"If you are looking for a place to start a fast-food restaurant, the first issue you are guaranteed to face is that you will not find a location with parking.

One area where many franchises went wrong is most of them began their journey from Gulshan Avenue. But our journey began from Dhanmondi," Samdani added. 

"When I am launching in Gulshan, I am competing with City Bank, Prime Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, etc. How can I compete with wealthy banks? While they can afford to pay Tk400 per square foot in rent, think of the volume of pizzas, burgers or fried chicken one needs to sell to pay for a space of 7,000 square feet," he further added.

Real estate prices in Bangladesh that directly contrasts with the franchisee model of McDonald's (McDonald's reportedly recommends restaurants be built over 50,000 square feet, with 4,500 square feet for the actual restaurant and the rest for parking) have meant that despite enthusiasm from McDonald's at one time, and local entrepreneurs still, the restaurant never materialised in the country. 

And then you have the issue of cold chain and agro-processing, which make it virtually impossible for any local investor to come up with a sustainable business model for introducing the premier fast-food chain in the country. 

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বিডার ওএসএস পোর্টালে যুক্ত হলো নতুন পাঁচটি সেবা

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক

ডিসেম্বর ১৩, ২০২১

বিনিয়োগকারীদের সুবিধার্থে বাংলাদেশ বিনিয়োগ উন্নয়ন কর্তৃপক্ষের (বিডা) অনলাইন ওয়ান স্টপ সার্ভিস (্ওএসএস) পোর্টালে যুক্ত হলো আরো পাঁচটি সেবা। এ নিয়ে প্রতিদিন সার্বক্ষণিক ভিত্তিতে ১৮টি প্রতিষ্ঠানের ৫৬টি সেবা অনলাইনে পাওয়া যাচ্ছে। গতকাল রাজধানীর আগারগাঁওয়ে বিডা সম্মেলন কক্ষে এসব সেবার উদ্বোধনী অনুষ্ঠানে সভাপতিত্ব করেন প্রতিষ্ঠানটির নির্বাহী চেয়ারম্যান মো. সিরাজুল ইসলাম।

অনুষ্ঠানটি সঞ্চালনা করেন বিডার সহকারী পরিচালক আবুজার গিফারী তমাল, স্বাগত বক্তব্য রাখেন বিডার নির্বাহী সদস্য অভিজিৎ চৌধুরী, ওএসএস হালনাগাদ চিত্র তুলে ধরেন বিডার পরিচালক জীবন কৃষ্ণ রায়। এ সময় আরো উপস্থিত ছিলেন আমদানি ও রফতানি প্রধান নিয়ন্ত্রকের দপ্তরের প্রধান নিয়ন্ত্রক শেখ রফিকুল ইসলাম পিএএ, বিজনেস অটোমেশন লিমিটেডের বজলুল হক বিশ্বাস, ইন্টারন্যাশনাল ফাইন্যান্স করপোরেশনের সিনিয়র প্রাইভেট সেক্টর স্পেশালিস্ট মিয়া রহমত আলী। এছাড়াও অনুষ্ঠানে ওয়াল্ড ব্যাংক গ্রুপ, এনকেএ মবিন, এফসিএস, এফসিএর ঊর্ধ্বতন সহসভাপতি, ঢাকা চেম্বার অব কমার্স অ্যান্ড ইন্ডাস্ট্রির (ডিসিসিআই) কর্মকর্তারা বক্তব্য রাখেন।

নতুন উদ্বোধন করা সেবাগুলো হচ্ছে বিডার তৃতীয় অ্যাডহক আইআরসির সুপারিশ, জাতীয় রাজস্ব বোর্ডের বিদেশী নাগরিকদের আয়কর, আমদানি ও রফতানি প্রধান নিয়ন্ত্রক দপ্তরের রফতানি নিবন্ধন, চট্টগ্রাম সিটি করপোরেশনের ট্রেড লাইসেন্স, ঢাকা চেম্বার অব কমার্স অ্যান্ড ইন্ডাস্ট্রিজের কান্ট্রি অব অরিজিন।

বিডার নির্বাহী চেয়ারম্যান বলেন, প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার নেতৃত্বে ডিজিটাল বাংলাদেশ বাস্তবায়নের ফলে দ্রুতই দেশের উন্নয়ন হচ্ছে। উন্নয়নের লক্ষ্যে দ্রুত সেবা গ্রহণে পাবলিক ও প্রাইভেট সেক্টরকে দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি পরিবর্তন করতে হবে। সহজে স্বল্প খরচে দ্রুত বিনিয়োগ সেবা নেয়ার জন্য সিঙ্গেল প্লাটফর্ম ব্যবহার করতে হবে।

বিডা সূত্র জানায়, ২০১৯ সালে ওএসএস পোর্টালে মাত্র দুটি সেবার ব্যবস্থা থাকলেও পর্যায়ক্রমে বাড়ানো হচ্ছে। প্রতিদিন একশর বেশি বিনিয়োগকারী অনলাইন সেবা গ্রহণ করছে।

এর আগে চলতি বছরের ২৯ আগস্ট দেশী-বিদেশী বিনিয়োগকারীদের নির্বিঘ্নে সেবা প্রদানের লক্ষ্যে পাঁচটি প্রতিষ্ঠানের সঙ্গে একটি সমঝোতা স্মারক সই করে বিডা। প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলো হলো সিসিসিআই, ফরেন ইনভেস্টরস চেম্বার অব কমার্স অ্যান্ড ইন্ডাস্ট্রি (এফআইসিসিআই), ইস্টার্ন ব্যাংক লিমিটেড, স্ট্যান্ডার্ড চার্টার্ড ব্যাংক বাংলাদেশ এবং ইসলামী ব্যাংক বাংলাদেশ লিমিটেড।

মো. সিরাজুল ইসলাম বলেন, বিনিয়োগকারীদের সর্বোচ্চ বিনিয়োগ সেবা দেয়ার লক্ষ্যে কাজ করে যাচ্ছে বিডা। আমরা এরই মধ্যে ১৬টি প্রতিষ্ঠানের ৫১টি সেবা দিয়ে আসছিলাম। আজ আরো পাঁচটি সেবা যুক্ত হওয়ায় ওএসএস সার্ভিস পোর্টালে ১৮টি সংস্থার ৫৬টি বিনিয়োগ সেবা পাওয়া যাবে। আমরা প্রতিদিন গড়ে একশর বেশি বিনিয়োগকারীকে সেবা দিয়ে আসছি। এ সংখ্যা প্রতিদিন বাড়ছে।


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Saifuddin Saif

13 December, 2021, 02:00 pm

Last modified: 13 December, 2021, 02:49 pm

Govt looking for alternatives to China in two rail projects

The railways ministry is in talks with various development partners, including Jica and ADB, for financing



In FY 2014-15, the Railway lost Tk872.84 crore, the loss went up to Tk1,734.37 crore in 2018-19. Photo: Noor-A-Alam


  • Chinese contractors backtrack after project costs are revised downward
  • PM instructs to look for alternative foreign funding
  • Railway ministry initiates process to find new contractor
  • Jica interested in Joydebpur-Iswardi project 
  • Indian contractor Ircon has shown interest for Akhaura-Ishwardi project

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the railway ministry to look for alternative sources of foreign funds after Chinese contractors backtracked on two railway expansion projects citing downsized costs.

The two projects are – conversion of the Akhaura-Sylhet metre gauge railway line into dual gauge and construction of the Joydebpur-Ishwardi dual-gauge rail line.

Both projects, under a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement, were to be implemented through Chinese financing and contractors. Later, the costs for the projects were deemed too high compared to similar projects and the costs were revised downward by an inter-ministerial meeting at the instruction of the prime minister. 

The Chinese contractors soon informed the government of their decision to not move forward with the revised funding. When the matter was recently presented to the prime minister, she directed that alternative financing sources be sourced, railway officials said.

The railways ministry has started the process of securing foreign funds from alternative sources after receiving instructions from the prime minister. As part of this process, the Ministry of Railways has sent letters to the Planning Commission and the Economic Relations Division (ERD).

At the same time, the railways ministry is in talks with various development partners for financing. The ministry has already received initial assurance of loans from Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for the construction of the dual gauge double line from Joydebpur to Ishwardi, railways officials said.

Md Golam Mostofa, project director of the Joydebebpur-Ishwardi rail line construction, told The Business Standard that the railways ministry has also started preliminary discussions with various development partners and received assurance of financing from Jica. 

"ERD will sit with Jica to finalise the loan. In case an agreement is not reached with Jica, the project will be implemented with some other development partner or government funding," he said.

"We want to speed up the financing process because project costs increase when work is stopped for a long time," Mr Mostofa added.

ERD officials said the railways would liaise with potential development partners to raise funds for the two projects. For this task, the ERD has a search committee that will determine which development partners to contact based on the type of project. Development partners such as Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Jica provide loans for general rail infrastructure projects. 

According to the Ministry of Railways, Jica has expressed interest in the construction of the railway line from Joyderpur to Ishwardi, while the ADB or Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) could be considered for the Akhaura-Sylhet project, ERD officials said.

The cost of the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double line project, which was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in 2018, was estimated at Tk14,250 crore. Of this, the loan amount from China was estimated to be Tk8,757 crore, while the railways initially agreed to a construction contract worth Tk10,302 crore with China Railway Engineering Construction Company.

The inter-ministerial committee later identified an additional expenditure of around Tk217 crore for this project.

The project to convert the Akhaura-Sylhet metre rail line to a dual gauge line was approved by ECNEC on 9 April, 2019. The cost of the project was estimated at Tk16,104 crore and the Chinese company, Construction Bridge Engineering Bureau Group Company, was given the contract at a cost of Tk12,079 crore. Following the directive of the prime minister, the inter-ministerial committee recommended a reduction in the cost of the project by Tk 3354 crore.

Indian state-owned Ircon International Limited (Ircon) has offered to fund the Akhaura-Sylhet rail line project, recently making the offer in a letter to Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan. 

"We hereby submit our Expression of Interest for construction of the Railway project for conversion of the meter Gauge line to Dual Gauge Line between Akhaura-Sylhet, with funding from the Exim Bank of India," read the letter.

However, the railway ministry said it was not considering the Indian proposal at this point. First, they want to secure funds from alternative sources like ADB or Jica, which offer loans on easier terms.

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Red carpet still a myth for investors, red tape the reality


 Published at 07:18 pm December 15th, 2021


Decoding Bangladesh's ambitious 'one-stop service' initiative

If business opportunity is mangoes on a tree, effort is the energy needed to scale it and pluck as much of the sweet fruit as possible. In Bangladesh, these trees are super tall.

Notwithstanding the honest efforts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh still remains a difficult country to do business -- entrepreneurs are hobbled by endless adherence to overlapping regulations sans coordination among the various government agencies.

To be precise, the devil is in the details. Of the 17 public entities and one private firm enlisted by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) for providing 57 services under one roof -- called the 'one-stop service' (OSS) -- to investors planning to set up shops, only a few are active.

The One-Stop Service Act, 2017, to provide domestic and foreign investors hassle-free clearances from a single venue came into effect in February 2018. Nearly four years on, 15 government entities, including the National Board of Revenue (NBR), remain inactive to provide services under the OSS.

Only the NID service of the Bangladesh Election Commission and the e-payment platform of Sonali Bank are providing services properly.

Bangladesh’s effort to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) cannot be achieved under such a bureaucratic red tape, according to a top leader of a trade body.

However, the BIDA chief has refuted the allegations of bureaucratic red tape. His logic is simple -- "the initiative will fructify over time", another bureaucratic allibi.

"BIDA is working to provide 57 services online by 18 public and private sector agencies under the OSS, including business registration, land allocation, trade body membership etc. The system is corruption-free and fast," said Md Sirajul Islam, the executive chairman of BIDA.

At present, BIDA is providing 18 services under the online initiative where every movement of a file is tracked, he said.

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) has added some services under the OSS programme. "Other related organisations can include their services too under this initiative," Sirajul said.

“We are working to integrate more government and private entities under the initiative and efforts are on to make the system user friendly,” he added.

DCCI president Rizwan Rahman told UNB that the OSS "requires some adjustments and improvements. Eventually, the OSS will be a great deal if we can ensure the services without personal visits to government offices".

DCCI will provide facilities like new membership, membership renewal and country of origin certificate under the OSS, he assured. "Overall, the OSS is a praiseworthy initiative of the government under its 'Digital Bangladesh' initiative."

Under the OSS Act, BIDA has been empowered to implement one-stop services for investors along with other investment promotion agencies like Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) and Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA).

The investment proposal registered by BIDA grew by 46.33% in the July-September quarter of the current financial year over the corresponding period in the previous fiscal.

According to BIDA, an entity attached with the Prime Minister Office has given registrations to as many as 189 companies with investment proposals of Tk20,463 crore in the first quarter of this fiscal.


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Eyamin Sajid

17 December, 2021, 10:35 pm

Last modified: 18 December, 2021, 09:38 am

Delays, cost overruns dog railway projects for decade

When it comes to Bangladesh railway, some of its projects appear to run at an impossibly slow pace, triggering cost hikes up to an unprecedented 873% in some cases



Cost escalation and time extension have become commonplace for many government projects because of their slow-moving implementation process. When it comes to Bangladesh railway, some of its projects appear to run at an impossibly slow pace, triggering cost hikes up to an unprecedented 873% in some cases.  

For example, a six-year project to procure 70 metre gauge diesel electric locomotives has not been completed even after a decade. 

Starting in 2011, the project has made a 0.5% progress despite three time extensions and its cost has gone up to Tk2,659 crore from the initial Tk1,946 crore over the years.

Yet, the railway authorities are not sure when the project will end.

Likewise, there are three more ongoing railway projects that have been running at a snail's pace for a decade, leading to multiple time extensions and cost hikes with questionable progress.

The authorities have mainly blamed such delays to changes in designs and sources and types of financing in the middle of the projects, and delay in releasing funds. 

Besides, project implementers face different types of hurdles with most projects taken without a feasibility study and future projection, they point out. 

To top it all, then came the pandemic onslaught that further slowed down the projects, they add.

There are 41 ongoing railway projects involving Tk1.42 lakh crore, of which at least 20 saw their deadlines get extended one to four times and costs went up massively. 

The projects were taken up as per the railway's first master plan approved in 2013 to increase train services and expand its network for a strong and integrated transport system in the country. 

As per the phase-wise vision of the master plan, the railway is supposed to have 346 locomotives and 1,832 coaches by the 2019-2023 period. But at present, the service provider only has 249 locomotives and 1671 coaches in its system, says its latest annual report. 

According to Bangladesh Railway, the procurement of 70 metre gauge diesel electric locomotives project started in July 2011 with a six-year tenure until June 2017. The project cost was estimated at Tk1,946 crore. 

For the procurement, the railway authorities floated tenders inviting bidders three times from 2011 to 2014 but it went nowhere as there were no bidders.  

In 2018, a contract was signed with Hyundai Rotem, a South Korean company, to procure the locomotives at a cost of Tk2,035 crore, and Standard Chartered Bank and Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation were set to finance the procurement. 

But the Economic Relations Division (ERD) disagreed on taking the loan, marking it a hard loan as its interest rate was above 15%. So the loan agreement did not progress any further.

Even then, the planning ministry extended the project implementation period three times to 2024. 

Ahmed Mahbub Chowdhury, project director of the Procurement of 70 Metre Gauge Diesel Electric Locomotives, told The Business Standard, "The project has not made any progress owing to complexities relating to financing. The Finance Division has continued to press for soft loans, which are hardly available."

Generally, the authorities arrange funding before a tender is floated in most cases, but that did not happen in this project, he said. 

Had the Finance Division either pushed for a soft loan beforehand or arranged for the fund in time, the project would not have been delayed for such a long time, the project director added. 

Extended deadline ends yet project incomplete 

The nearly 65-kilometre Khulna-Mongla port rail line is another vivid example of a very slow-running railway project.  

The project, which was taken up in December 2010, was supposed to be completed within the next three years around June 2014. But it has been lingering for more than a decade and has got an extension for another one and a half years. 

The project's time has been extended four times and its cost has increased by around 121% to Tk3,801 crore from the initial cost of Tk1,721crore. 

From then on to June 2021, the progress of the project has been 84%. Now it is expected that the project will be completed by December 2022. 

Project director Md Arifuzzaman said, "The pandemic is one of a few reasons for the delay. We are now working on completing the project by December 2022." 

Dohazari-Cox's Bazar project: Another case of delay

To give easy and affordable rail connectivity to the tourist city and establish a connection with the Trans-Asian railway corridor, the government took up the project in 2010 with a target of June 2016 completion. 

This project also got its time extended several times and the completion deadline was finally set for June 2022. 

After ten years, the project has witnessed an overall 64% progress till October this year to meet the revised target of commissioning by December next year.

Talking about the delay, project officials said the project was taken up to set up a 128km metre-gauge rail track. But three years later, the authorities changed the decision and decided to set up a dual-gauge rail track, which required more land acquisition and increased cost. 

The project's design has also been changed. Thus the project cost jumped around tenfold to Tk18,034.47 crore from the initial cost of Tk1,852.35 crore.

Faulty design delays Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of railway 

To increase transportation of goods and boost regional trade between India and Bangladesh, the government took up the Kulaura-Shahbazpur railway reconstruction project in 2010. The project was scheduled to be completed by June 2017. 

After 10 years, around 70% of project work is still to be done even after several extensions of the deadline.  

The target has now been set at finishing the 52.54km railway line by 2022 but there has been little progress over the last six months. 

With work progressing at a snail's pace, concerns have been raised over completing it even in the extended period.

Project director Md Sultan Ali blamed the change in the project design and a delay in financial approval for the delay. 

Initially, a metre gauge line was planned for the project, but later the design was changed following the instructions from the prime minister who directed that all newly-constructed railways have to be dual gauge or broad gauge tracks. For the design changes, project work could not start before 2018, Sultan noted. 

The delay in financial approval is another reason for the project being implemented under the Indian Line of Credit, he also said. 

Experts say because of slow implementation of projects, the government's spending on development projects is increasing gradually and the country is being deprived of expected outcomes from the projects. 

Transport and communication expert Professor Dr Md Shamsul Hoque said projects lingering for years are the results of fragmented and unplanned development as well as unaccountability. 

"All the projects are part of the railway's master plan. The government is not getting benefits of these projects owing to a long delay. Time overrun and cost overrun cause losses," Shamsul noted.  

The country's philosophy of development should be scientific and economy driven, he added. 

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এডিবির প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়নে বাংলাদেশে শীর্ষে ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার

শামীম রাহমান

ডিসেম্বর ২১, ২০২১


পরিবহন, জ্বালানি, স্বাস্থ্য, শিক্ষা, কৃষি, অবকাঠামোসহ দেশের বিভিন্ন খাতে গত পাঁচ বছরে ৪১২ কোটি ডলারেরও বেশি বিনিয়োগ করেছে এশীয় উন্নয়ন ব্যাংক (এডিবি)। সংস্থাটির ঋণ ও অনুদানে বাস্তবায়িত হচ্ছে বিভিন্ন বিনিয়োগ, কারিগরি সহায়তা ও সমীক্ষা প্রকল্প। প্রকল্পগুলোয় দেশী-বিদেশী ঠিকাদারি প্রতিষ্ঠানের মধ্যে সবচেয়ে বেশি অর্থের প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করছে বাংলাদেশের ঠিকাদারি প্রতিষ্ঠান ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার লিমিটেড। ম্যাক্স ছাড়াও তমা কন্সট্রাকশন ও চায়না রেলওয়ে গ্রুপ লিমিটেডের (সিআরইসি) জয়েন্ট ভেঞ্চার, গন্ধর্বপুর ওয়াটার ট্রিটমেন্ট (এসএনসি), আবদুল মোনেম লিমিটেড এবং সাংহাই ইলেকট্রনিক ও রিভারির জয়েন্ট ভেঞ্চার রয়েছে বাংলাদেশে এডিবির শীর্ষ পাঁচ ঠিকাদারের তালিকায়।

২০১৬ সালের জানুয়ারি থেকে ২০২০ সালের ডিসেম্বর পর্যন্ত বাস্তবায়নাধীন বিনিয়োগ প্রকল্পগুলোর ঠিকাদার/সরবরাহকারীদের এ তালিকা সম্প্রতি প্রকাশ করেছে এডিবি। এ সময়ে সব মিলিয়ে এডিবির ৮৬টি প্রকল্প চলমান ছিল। এডিবির করা তালিকা অনুযায়ী, বাংলাদেশে বর্তমানে ৬৩ কোটি ১৭ লাখ ২ হাজার কোটি ডলারের প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করছে ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার। এডিবির অর্থায়নে পরিবহন খাতের একাধিক প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করছে প্রতিষ্ঠানটি।

চট্টগ্রামের দোহাজারী থেকে রামু হয়ে কক্সবাজার পর্যন্ত প্রায় ১০০ কিলোমিটার ডুয়াল গেজ রেলপথ নির্মাণ প্রকল্পের একটি বড় অংশ বাস্তবায়ন করছে ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার। চায়না সিভিল ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং কন্সট্রাকশন করপোরেশনের (সিসিইসিসি) সঙ্গে যৌথভাবে প্রায় সাড়ে ৩ হাজার কোটি টাকার উন্নয়নকাজ বাস্তবায়ন করছে প্রতিষ্ঠানটি।

এডিবির অর্থায়নে একাধিক প্রকল্প ছাড়াও বিদেশী সহায়তা ও বাংলাদেশ সরকারের অর্থায়নে রূপপুর পারমাণিক বিদ্যুৎকেন্দ্র নির্মাণ প্রকল্পের ছয়টি লট, পাওয়ার গ্রিড কোম্পানি অব বাংলাদেশ লিমিটেডের সঞ্চালন লাইন, চট্টগ্রামে এলিভেটেড এক্সপ্রেসওয়ে, আন্ধারমানিক নদীতে ৬৬৭ মিটার দীর্ঘ সেতুসহ বিভিন্ন প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করছে ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার।

এডিবিসহ দেশী-বিদেশী বিভিন্ন উন্নয়ন প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়নের বিষয়ে জানতে গতকাল একাধিকবার যোগাযোগ করা হলেও ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার ও ম্যাক্স গ্রুপের কর্মকর্তারা কোনো মন্তব্য করতে রাজি হননি।

অন্যদিকে আখাউড়া থেকে লাকসাম পর্যন্ত ডুয়াল গেজ ডাবল লাইন রেলপথ নির্মাণ এবং বিদ্যমান রেললাইনকে ডুয়াল গেজে রূপান্তর প্রকল্পে সিআরইসি ও তমা কন্সট্রাকশনের যৌথভাবে আরো প্রায় সাড়ে ৩ হাজার কোটি টাকার কাজ বাস্তবায়ন করছে ম্যাক্স ইনফ্রাস্ট্রাকচার।

ম্যাক্সের পর বাংলাদেশে এডিবির সবচেয়ে বেশি টাকার কাজ বাস্তবায়ন করছে তমা ও সিআরইসির জয়েন্ট ভেঞ্চার। বর্তমানে এডিবির অর্থায়নে বাস্তবায়ন করছে ২২ কোটি ৮ লাখ ডলারের কাজ। এর মধ্যে চট্টগ্রামের দোহাজারী থেকে রামু হয়ে কক্সবাজার পর্যন্ত প্রায় ১০০ কিলোমিটার ডুয়াল গেজ রেলপথ নির্মাণ প্রকল্পে ২ হাজার ৬৮৮ কোটি টাকার কাজ বাস্তবায়ন করছে প্রতিষ্ঠান দুটি।

গন্ধর্বপুর ওয়াটার ট্রিটমেন্ট এসএনসি বাস্তবায়ন করছে এডিবির আরো ১৫ কোটি ৫৩ লাখ ডলারের কাজ। মূলত পানি ও নগর অবকাঠামো উন্নয়ন প্রকল্পে কাজ করছে এ প্রতিষ্ঠান।

ঠিকাদারি প্রতিষ্ঠান আব্দুল মোনেম লিমিটেড বাস্তবায়ন করছে এডিবির ১৫ কোটি ৫৯ লাখ ডলারের উন্নয়ন কাজ। এর মধ্যে রয়েছে টাঙ্গাইল-রংপুর মহাসড়কের প্রায় কোটি টাকার একটি প্যাকেজের নির্মাণকাজ। এ প্যাকেজের মাধ্যমে এলেঙ্গা থেকে বঙ্গবন্ধু সেতু পর্যন্ত সাড়ে ১৩ কিলোমিটার দীর্ঘ মহাসড়কটি ধীরগতির যানবাহনের জন্য আলাদা লেনসহ চার লেনে উন্নীতের কাজ করছে আবদুল মোনেম লিমিটেড।

বাংলাদেশে এডিবির শীর্ষ পাঁচ ঠিকাদারের একজন হওয়ার বিষয়টি দৃষ্টি আকর্ষণ করলে আবদুল মোনেম লিমিটেডের অতিরিক্ত ব্যবস্থাপনা পরিচালক মহিউদ্দিন মোনেম বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, যেকোনো স্বীকৃতির জন্য প্রয়োজন কাজের প্রতি দায়িত্ববোধ ও গুণগত মান বজায় রাখা। আমরা সব সময় এই নীতি মেনে চলার চেষ্টা করি। এক্ষেত্রে আমার বাবা আবদুল মোনেমের একটা দর্শন রয়েছে। আমরা সেই দর্শনটাকে ধরে রাখার চেষ্টা করছি এবং ভবিষ্যতেও আমরা তা অব্যাহত রাখতে চাই।

অন্যদিকে বিদ্যুৎ খাতে এডিবির অর্থায়নে ৮ কোটি ১২ লাখ ডলারের বেশি প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করছে সাংহাই ইলেকট্রনিক ও রিভারির জয়েন্ট ভেঞ্চার। পাওয়ার গ্রিড কোম্পানি অব বাংলাদেশ লিমিটেডের মাধ্যমে বগুড়ায় একটি ৪০০ কেভি গ্রিড সাবস্টেশন, চাঁপাইনবাবগঞ্জের রহনপুরে আরেকটি ৪০০ কেভি গ্রিড সাবস্টেশন নির্মাণ করছে এ জয়েন্ট ভেঞ্চার। এর বাইরে গোপালগঞ্জে ৪০০ কেভি গ্রিড সাবস্টেশন ও চাঁপাইনবাবগঞ্জে ১৩২ কেভি বে সম্প্রসারণের কাজও করছে সাংহাই ইলেকট্রনিক ও রিভারি।

তালিকাভুক্ত শীর্ষ পাঁচ ঠিকাদারি/সরবরাহকারী প্রতিষ্ঠানের বাইরে এডিবির আরো প্রায় ২৯১ কোটি ডলারের উন্নয়নকাজ বাস্তবায়ন করছে বিভিন্ন দেশী-বিদেশী প্রতিষ্ঠান।

বর্তমানে বাংলাদেশে এডিবির যে বিনিয়োগ, তার একটা বড় হচ্ছে পরিবহন খাতে। পরিবহন খাতের প্রকল্পগুলোর মধ্যে জয়দেবপুর-এলেঙ্গা ও এলেঙ্গা-রংপুর মহাসড়ক চার লেনে উন্নয়ন এবং বিমানবন্দর-গাজীপুর বাস র্যাপিড ট্রানজিট (বিআরটি) নির্মাণ প্রকল্পের একটি অংশ বাস্তবায়ন করছে সড়ক ও জনপথ অধিদপ্তর। এডিবিসহ বিভিন্ন প্রকল্পে ঠিকাদার নিয়োগের বিষয়ে দৃষ্টি আকর্ষণ করলে সড়ক ও জনপথ অধিদপ্তরের প্রধান প্রকৌশলী আবদুস সবুর বলেন, উন্নয়নকাজে ঠিকাদার নিযুক্ত করার প্রক্রিয়াটি এখন প্রায় শতভাগ ডিজিটাল হয়েছে। আইন ও নীতিমালা অনুসরণ করে আহ্বান করা দরপত্রের মাধ্যমে যোগ্য ও অভিজ্ঞ ঠিকাদাররাই বিভিন্ন প্রকল্পের কাজ পাচ্ছেন।

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Saifuddin Saif

21 December, 2021, 12:50 pm

Last modified: 21 December, 2021, 02:19 pm

Railway development elusive due to projects with unconfirmed funds, improper feasibility studies


The cherished development of railway communication in the country remains elusive as the authorities concerned have been taking projects with unconfirmed funds from foreign lenders and improper feasibility studies.

Half of the total railway development projects are in operation on paper, but they hardly achieved progress in reality. With weaknesses in pre-implementation level works, and complexity in implementation, the projects are getting extensions again and again raising the costs.

The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the planning ministry, in a recent report, says the railway projects are getting approval before confirming funds, which resulted in a delay in starting the projects. Besides, weakness in project proposals and tender, delays in other procedures and getting approval from the development partners trigger the complexities.

Though the country has undertaken huge projects for railway development with huge budgets since 2010, it is yet to see the outcomes due to the prolonged delay in the development works.

Currently, a total of 42 railway development projects are in operation, and half of them are dependent on foreign funds.

"Bangladesh takes loans from India and China under the government-to-government model. It is very time-consuming and costly," said Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Professor Md Shamsul Hoque.

The transportation and road infrastructure expert believes the development partners (foreign lenders) provide loans for their interests and release the money as per their wishes.

Haque suggested going for public-private partnerships, coming out from the G2G model for railway project financing.

The professor believes the majority of the feasibility studies have been conducted staying inside a room, for which the officials do not face accountability.

"The complexity appears when the field-level implementation starts, then the design needs to be changed time after time," he told The Business Standard and noted that lack of skills among the project directors was also a fact.

For example, Ecnec approved a project in 2016 to procure 200 metre-gauge passenger carriages. However, it failed to manage the fund – Tk713 crore – from Europe-based commercial lender Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank with the project deadline. However, the project is still facing different troubles. At least 8 projects,  supposed to be financed by the Asian Development Bank, China, India, Japan and others, were identified with similar complexity.

Contacted, Dhirendra Nath Mazumder, director-general of the Bangladesh Railway said, there were many reasons behind the delay in implementation of the projects which are financed (or partially financed) by the foreign entities.

"Different projects have different problems. We are taking steps to fix the issues," he said.  The director general is, however, hopeful to be able to come out from the complexities in phases.

India is ahead of others

India is financing at least 7 railway development projects, the highest among others.

Indian lines of Credit-financed three projects – to construct a dual-gauge line from Bagura to Shahid M Mansur Ali Station, to set up a double line on Khulna-Darshana, and to make Parbatipur-Kaunia line dual-gauge from metre-gauge – got approval in 2018. However, tenders of the projects are yet to be finalised. Some other projects got approval between 2010 to 2012. However, they hardly could complete 30% of the total work, even after extending the project duration several times.

An analysis of the projects shows that approvals from different Indian authorities were the key reason behind the delay in getting funds on time.

Insiders said,  the India-funded projects need to buy 75% of products and services from India, which was also a barrier. Besides, there remain some other conditions hard to achieve.

ADB-funded projects

The Dohazari- Ramu-Gundum  single line dual-gauge track project was approved in 2010. The project could finally manage funds from the ADB after seven years. Still, the project is incomplete due to design change, complexity in land acquisition and other issues. The five-year project now takes 15 years in total.  The ADB has a total of five projects in the railway sector.

China-promised two projects in uncertainty

China promised to finance at least 4 projects of railway development, according to the project proposals. However, two of the projects are now in uncertainty as the contractors turned away from the projects – one for making Akhaura-Sylhet metre-gauge line mixed-gauge, and the other for setting up dual-gauge double line on Joydebpur-Ishwardi – protesting the government's move of rationalising project costs.

China was supposed to implement and finance the two projects under the government-to-government model. Project officials said the government was now looking for alternatives to China, but they were not sure when the fund would be confirmed.

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Bangladesh gets Tk 11b Swiss investments

Published:  December 22, 2021 17:24:09 | Updated:  December 22, 2021 20:19:17


Switzerland will invest around 119 million Swiss francs (CHF) or Tk 11 billion to implement its programme in Bangladesh over the next four years.

As Switzerland and Bangladesh are about to celebrate 50 years of bilateral relations, Switzerland officially launched its Cooperation Programme for Bangladesh 2022-2025 at a ceremony held in Dhaka.

Patricia Danzi, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), presented the programme on the last day of her five-day visit to Bangladesh.

Planning Minister MA Mannan attended the event as the chief guest, reports UNB.

Senior government officials, international and development partners, members of the civil society and media also participated at the event.  

The new cooperation programme is guided by Swiss foreign policy priorities and the country’s international cooperation strategy.

It is aligned with the Agenda 2030 and Bangladesh’s development priorities, including the Eighth Five-Year Plan.

The overall goal of the Swiss Cooperation Programme 2022-2025 is to support Bangladesh’s sustainable LDC graduation, promote a prosperous, just and resilient society, and contribute to peaceful coexistence.

During Danzi’s first visit to Bangladesh, she met with senior government officials, development partners, beneficiaries and other key stakeholders to discuss a wide range of topics, including bilateral relations, international cooperation, Bangladesh’s development priorities and the Rohingya crisis.

She also visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and different humanitarian and development projects funded by Switzerland in Cox’s Bazar and Gazipur districts. 

Switzerland was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Bangladesh after its independence.

Over the last five decades, bilateral relations between the two countries have grown broader and deeper, including economic and international cooperation, humanitarian aid, as well as cultural and political exchanges.

The two countries will celebrate the golden jubilee of their bilateral relations in 2022.

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Japan considers funding after China pulls out from Joydebpur-Ishwardi rail project

 MUNIMA SULTANA | Published:  December 23, 2021 09:27:37 | Updated:  December 23, 2021 18:08:46

Japan may consider funding the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line construction project after China pulled out of the project for developing the country's important rail corridor.

Upon request from the Bangladesh Railway through the Economic Relations Division (ERD), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has taken moves to look into the scope of funding the project, said sources.

The preliminary budget for the project was estimated at US$1.23 billion or Tk 142.50 billion.

A JICA team already visited the project sites early this month and hinted about a visit of an appraisal mission soon to evaluate the 174 kilometre double-line construction project, the sources further said.

The railway took the project to improve train services with north and western parts of the country.

At present, 28 trains use the existing single-line track - the number of trains is likely to increase to 74 per day due to an increase in demand for train services.

The Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line project was one of the four listed projects under the memorandum of understanding signed during Chinese President Ji Jingpin's visit to Bangladesh in October 2016.

But the project could not make any headway until 2018 when the Chinese side selected China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation to do the work and the government purchase committee approved its Tk 115.86 billion proposal.

The railway then sought a loan of Tk 87.56 billion from the Chinese government.

However, the Chinese embassy in a letter - dated on March 29, 2021 - regretted funding the project showing various grounds, including the lack of in-depth preliminary work and insufficient feasibility study.

The Chinese side then said the project could not pass its evaluation process done by a third party.

It also regretted again after the railway requested the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy to re-evaluate the decision in August this year answering all other issues like high unit cost, real prediction of freight volume, risk of debt repayment, etc.

Even the railway revised its estimated budget and cut it down to $ 1.07 billion to reduce the unit cost, but to no avail.

Official sources said the decision to look for funds from other sources was taken after getting approval from the prime minister as the project fell under the MoU signed between the two governments.

There is no doubt about the importance of the project, but taking longer time in implementing the project is set to increase passenger sufferings, they said.

The railway faces tremendous pressure to manage train operations to and from western zone as there is only a single-line metre gauge track after the Tongi station.

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Saifuddin Saif

24 December, 2021, 12:35 pm

Last modified: 24 December, 2021, 02:10 pm

Govt to build Ctg-Cox’s Bazar expressway thru’ Banshkhali

The planned route will reduce travel distance from the port city to Cox’s Bazar by 54km



The government is planning to build an expressway from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar through Patiya, Banshkhali and Eidmoni under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mechanism.

The planned route, which is 106km long, will reduce travel distance from the port city to Cox's Bazar by 54km. Meanwhile, the existing 160km Chattogram-Cox's Bazar national highway, where an expressway was initially planned, will be upgraded to a four-lane road instead.

Decisions on both the projects came at an inter-ministerial meeting, presided over by the Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Md Nazrul Islam, on 10 November.  

The government of Japan has already expressed interest in funding the expressway project, said officials. Meanwhile, regarding the four-lane upgradation project, the government will approach Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for a loan on easy terms.

The expressway route, from Patiya - Anwara - Banshkhali - Eidmoni - Chowfaldandi - Khurushkul - Cox's Bazar, will not only slash travel distance and time, but also cut down construction cost and eventually travel cost with a reduced toll payment.

Officials expect the route will gain popularity because of a shorter distance and lessen pressure on the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway.

The Road Transport and Highways Division has set a target of completing both the projects by 2030.

Earlier, a committee headed by Md Abdul Malek, Additional Secretary (Development) of Road Transport and Highways Division, was formed to determine the route for the expressway. Following inspection, the committee proposed the route through Banshkhali.

Md Abdul Malek told TBS that at present there is a 70 km regional road from Chattogram's Patiya-Anwara-Banshkhali-Toitong to Chakaria's Eidmoni, while there is no road from Eidmoni-Chowfaldandi-Khurushkul to Cox's Bazar, which is 36km.

However, the Roads and Highways Department has completed the survey work for the construction of a regional highway from Eidmoni to Cox's Bazar and prepared a Tk2000 crore project proposal for the construction of this road.

In addition to a shortened distance, if the expressway is built on this route, the cost of land acquisition and construction will also be reduced, as the committee has estimated. It has proposed that an expressway under the PPP be built along the regional highway.

Road Transport and Highways Department officials said the Cox's Bazar area is being considered as an important economic zone in the country, centering on the Matarbari Coal Power Plant, LNG Terminal, proposed Matarbari Deep Sea Port and Matarbari-centric energy hub. As a result, it has become urgent to facilitate quicker communication with the port city.

Mohammad Yunus, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), thinks it will be reasonable to build an expressway along the existing Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway.

 "The government has plans to build a marine drive along the coast from Chattogram's Mirsarai to Cox's Bazar, which will connect with the Cox's Bazar-Tennaf marine drive road. If a commercial expressway is built through Banshkhali, then the proposed Mirsarai-Cox's Bazar marine drive construction plan will be difficult to implement and the tourism industry will suffer," he said.

Govt to conduct survey for planned PPP project

The initial plan to build an expressway on the existing Chattogram-Cox's Bazar route was followed by a survey, which was initiated in 2018 and is now in its final stage. However, with the government deciding to build the expressway on the new route through Banshkali, the decision to conduct a new survey was taken at the 10 November meeting.

PPP authority officials said that Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has expressed interest in the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway project under the government-to-government (G2G) PPP modality.  

The PPP authorities will now discuss with MLIT the details of the expressway construction through the Banshkhali route, they added.

Officials of the Road Transport and Highways Department and the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said the design for the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar-Teknaf four-lane highway has been prepared with the financial assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Meanwhile, Jica has expressed its interest in financing the project of upgrading the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway to a four-lane road.

ERD officials said the proposal for the four-lane upgradation will be presented to Jica, but if it is not interested the government will move to finalise a loan agreement with the ADB. 

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Kamran Siddiqui, Jahidul Islam & Ahsan Habib Tuhin

25 December, 2021, 02:30 pm

Last modified: 25 December, 2021, 02:35 pm

Non-resident Bangladeshi investment potentials lie untapped

A report proposed measures to boost investment from non-resident Bangladeshis in 2018, but there has been very little progress in this regard so far



Nearly 2.4 million Bangladeshis are estimated to be living abroad permanently, either as citizens or on long-term permits, but there has been very little effort by the government to tap this huge source of investment.

In 2018, a report by the Economic Relations Divisions (ERD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) proposed a set of measures to attract investment from the NRBs, but there has been very little progress in this regard so far.

According to the report, India, China, the Philippines, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and some other countries have focused on engaging the diaspora communities in economic development and brought about widespread and meaningful economic reforms to attract diaspora investment, but Bangladesh lags far behind in this regard.

The report titled "Engagement of Non-Resident Bangladeshis in National Development" identified delay in import and customs procedure, lack of utility connection, lack of skilled human capital, demand for speed money, complications in land acquisition, weak enforcement of intellectual property rights, complexities in transferring fund as the major reasons behind the low level of direct diaspora investment in Bangladesh.

The report recommended formulating a national level steering committee headed by the prime minister, a specialised diaspora engagement wing and three sub-units for philanthropy, investment, and expert engagement, but there has been very little progress in this regard in around four years since it was published.

It also proposed a plan to establish a central coordinating unit for boosting diaspora investment at the Prime Minister's Office, but that did not make much progress either.

"We conducted an in-depth study and recommended a coordinated way to utilise our NRB's prospects. But after the research, the follow-up activities were not satisfactory," said Dr Mobasser Monem, professor of public administration at University of Dhaka, who conducted the study.

Amal Krishna Mandal, chief of the United Nations wing of the ERD, told TBS, "We conducted the study under the Knowledge for Development Management Project funded by the UNDP. Later we found that the ERD has no functions to deal with the NRBs to attract investment. That is why we did not follow up further."

"Survey on the Use of Remittance," conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2013 found out that only 25.32% of received remittance in Bangladesh were invested in businesses while remaining 74.68% were spent for consumption.

SM Parvez Tomal, chairman of the NRB Commercial Bank Ltd in Bangladesh, told TBS, "There is a potential of foreign direct investment made by the NRBs worth $2-3 billion, but the environment in Bangladesh is not appropriate for operating businesses from abroad. Potential investors from abroad become victims of fraud in most of the cases."

Explaining the experience of establishing and operating his own bank, he said, "The banking system is a space of compliance. It was considered that all procedures would be completed within a few visits to Dhaka, but the reality was different."

"We had to stay in the country, leaving our own businesses abroad. Five among nine of our directors are living in Bangladesh, which is not possible for all the NRBs," said SM Parvez Tomal, who currently lives in Russia.

He identified the lack of provision to operate a bank account from abroad as a major obstacle behind the low investment from the diaspora communities.

Poor NRB investment in Capital Market

Currently, over 1.2 crore Bangladeshi workers reside abroad, but only 90,507 beneficiary owners accounts are maintained by NRBs for investing in shares and bonds in the capital market.

Previously NRBs enjoyed a 10% quota facility for buying Initial Public Offerings (IPO), but this year the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission has decreased the quota to 5% as the expatriate Bangladeshis have not shown much interest in investing in the capital market here.

Experts said the government offers various opportunities for NRBs to invest here, but most of them are not utilising those.

"The NRBs can invest in the stock markets anywhere in the world. So, they would not be interested in investing in Bangladesh as we could not develop our stock market up to that level," said Professor Abu Ahmed, a stock market expert.

Facilities for investing in bonds shrink

The government launched the Wage-Earner Development Bond in 1981 for ensuring risk-free investments by the NRBs.

The NRB investment in the bond was Tk1,341.26 crore in FY20 while it was Tk1,902.61 crore in the previous fiscal year.

Earlier, NRBs could invest a maximum of Tk50 lakh separately in three savings bonds – Wage-Earner Development Bond, US Dollar Premium Bond, and US Dollar Investment Bond. But the government lowered the maximum investment limit to Tk1 crore or its equivalent in foreign currency in these bonds last year.

Bonds provided a scope of secured investment for the NRBs, but the government has fixed the investment limit in these bonds at Tk1 crore. This has made the NRBs very unhappy, because they could have invested their money in Bangladesh, said SM Parvez Tomal, chairman of NRB Commercial Bank.

Besides, the NRBs are not much aware of these bonds due to a lack of a well-designed and robust publicity campaign, said experts.

NRBs want special economic zone

During the "Investor Summit: Bangladesh Capital Markets" in New York organised by Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) in July this year, the non-resident Bangladeshis demanded a special economic zone for them.

Moreover, during Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi's visit in the United Arab Emirates on occasion of the "World expo 2020" in Dubai last month, Bangladeshi business communities raised a demand for a special economic zone.

At that time the commerce minister told the media that the government would sincerely consider the proposal for a dedicated economic zone for the expatriates.

Tipu Munshi also said the government would form a committee to provide assistance to expatriates for making investment and operating businesses in the country.

The committee will be headed by the commerce ministry and include the Ministry of Industry, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA).

BIDA Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam told TBS, "NRBs can invest in any special economic zone. They have been demanding a particular economic zone, but they do not have a united global platform."

However, he acknowledged that more coordinated efforts from the government bodies are needed to utilise the NRBs' potentials.

Project to promote diaspora investment

The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has recently taken up a pilot project to promote diaspora investment in Bangladesh in the agriculture sector. The project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The pilot project involving Tk9 crore will work in four upazilas to engage diaspora communities in various agricultural production, says Zahid Anwar, deputy director of WEWB.

During her recent visit in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the expatriate Bangladeshis all over the world to invest more in Bangladesh as investment opportunities for them have increased in all sectors.

Regarding allegations made by some expatriates that they are facing problems in investing in Bangladesh, the prime minister said, "We'll find out the barriers, if any, in this regard and I assure you all of solving those problems for your convenience to invest, which will be beneficial for all."

The prime minister also said the government has already given necessary directives to the Bangladesh Development and Investment Authority (BIDA) to remove all obstacles in the process of investments.

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যোগাযোগ অবকাঠামো উন্নয়ন

২০৫০ সাল পর্যন্ত থাকছে ঢাকাবাসীর দুর্ভোগ

শামীম রাহমান

ডিসেম্বর ২৫, ২০২১


ঢাকার ব্যস্ততম সড়কগুলোর একটি মিরপুর-ফার্মগেট-মতিঝিল সড়ক। ২০১৭ সালে এ সড়কে শুরু হয় মেট্রোরেলের নির্মাণকাজ। শুরুর পর থেকে দিন যত গড়িয়েছে, তত বেড়েছে মানুষের দুর্ভোগ। সংকুচিত হয়ে যাওয়া রাস্তা, ফেলে রাখা নির্মাণসামগ্রী আর খোঁড়াখুঁড়িই এ দুর্ভোগের কারণ। জলাবদ্ধতা, অসহনীয় যানজট বর্তমানে রাজধানীর অন্যতম প্রধান এ সড়কটির নিত্যসঙ্গী, যা প্রভাব ফেলছে ঢাকার অন্যান্য সড়কেও। মেট্রোরেলের কাজ শেষ হবে ২০২৪ সালে। ততদিন দুর্ভোগ সঙ্গী করেই সড়কটি ব্যবহার করতে হবে ঢাকাবাসীকে।

বিমানবন্দর-গাজীপুর সড়কে চলছে বাস র্যাপিড ট্রানজিট (বিআরটি) প্রকল্পের নির্মাণকাজ। ঢাকা-ময়মনসিংহ জাতীয় মহাসড়কের ঢাকা-গাজীপুর অংশে পড়েছে এ প্রকল্প। সড়কটির মাঝখান দিয়ে তৈরি হচ্ছে বিআরটি লেন। যান চলাচলের জায়গা কমে আসায় দিন-রাত ২৪ ঘণ্টাই যানজট লেগে থাকে এ সড়কে। সামান্য বৃষ্টি হলেই দেখা দেয় জলাবদ্ধতা, যা যানজট পরিস্থিতিকে ভয়াবহ করে তোলে। ২০১৭ সালে বিআরটির নির্মাণকাজ শুরুর পর থেকে বেহাল দশায় চলে গেছে সড়কটি।

যোগাযোগ অবকাঠামো উন্নয়নের কারণে ঢাকাবাসী এমন দুর্ভোগ থেকে সহসাই মুক্তি পাচ্ছে না। উত্তরা-মতিঝিল মেট্রোরেল ছাড়াও ঢাকায় আরো পাঁচটি মেট্রোরেল লাইন নির্মাণ করা হবে। পরিকল্পনা অনুযায়ী, এগুলো সম্পন্ন হবে ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে। তবে বাস্তব পরিস্থিতি বলছে, ঢাকার সবক’টি মেট্রোরেলের কাজ শেষ করতে আরো কয়েক বছর সময় লেগে যেতে পারে। ২০২৭ নাগাদ তৈরি হওয়ার কথা আরেকটি বিআরটি লেন। ঢাকা এবং ঢাকা-আশুলিয়া এলিভেটেড এক্সপ্রেসওয়ের কাজ সম্পন্ন হতে লেগে যাবে আরো কয়েক

বছর। পরিকল্পনাধীন তিনটি রিংরোড, ৮১ কিলোমিটারের বৃত্তাকার রেল, ২৫০ কিলোমিটারের বেশি সাবওয়ে নেটওয়ার্কের নির্মাণ শেষ হবে ২০৫০ সালে। অর্থাৎ ঢাকাবাসীকে ২০৫০ সাল পর্যন্ত চলমান উন্নয়নকাজের দুর্ভোগ সঙ্গী করেই চলাচল করতে হবে।

বিক্ষিপ্তভাবে ঢাকার যোগাযোগ অবকাঠামো উন্নয়ন পরিকল্পনাগুলো মানুষকে দীর্ঘমেয়াদি দুর্ভোগের দিকে ঠেলে দিচ্ছে বলে মনে করেন বাংলাদেশ প্রকৌশল বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের (বুয়েট) পুরকৌশল বিভাগের অধ্যাপক ড. হাদিউজ্জামান। বিষয়টি ব্যাখ্যা করে তিনি বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, ঢাকায় সড়ক কম, গাড়ি বেশি। স্বাভাবিকভাবে চলতে-ফিরতেই মানুষের অনেক দুর্ভোগ হয়। এর মধ্যে একসঙ্গে যদি অনেকগুলো সড়কের ওপর উন্নয়নকাজ চলে, তাহলে পরিস্থিতি ভয়াবহ আকার ধারণ করবে। আমরা কিন্তু সেই ভয়াবহ পরিস্থিতির দিকেই এগিয়ে যাচ্ছি। আমাদের উচিত ছিল বিক্ষিপ্তভাবে প্রকল্প না নিয়ে সমন্বিতভাবে প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করা। একটা প্রকল্পের কাজ শেষ হলে আরেকটির কাজ শুরু করা। তা না করে আমরা একসঙ্গে সব প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়ন করতে গিয়ে মানুষকে সীমাহীন দুর্ভোগের দিকে ঠেলে দিচ্ছি।

বর্তমানে ঢাকায় একটি মেট্রোরেল লাইনের কাজ চলমান। ২০২২ সাল নাগাদ ঢাকায় আরো দুটি মেট্রোরেল লাইনের কাজ শুরুর পরিকল্পনা রয়েছে সরকারের। এর মধ্যে বিমানবন্দর-কমলাপুর, বিমানবন্দর-পূর্বাচলে নির্মাণ হবে এমআরটি-১। আমিনবাজার-গাবতলী থেকে নতুনবাজার-ভাটারায় নির্মাণ হবে এমআরটি-৫। বিদ্যমান সড়কগুলোর পাতাল ও উড়ালপথে নির্মাণ করা হবে এগুলো। লাইন দুটির একটি বড় অংশ হবে পাতালপথে। কিছু অংশ তৈরি হবে উড়ালপথে। যথাক্রমে ২০২৬ ও ২০২৮ সাল নাগাদ প্রকল্প দুটি শেষ হওয়ার কথা। কাজ শুরু হলে আমিনবাজার-গাবতলী-নতুনবাজার-ভাটারা, বিমানবন্দর-কমলাপুর ও নতুনবাজার-পূর্বাচল সড়কে যাতায়াতে দুর্ভোগে পড়বে ঢাকাবাসী। একইভাবে ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে আশুলিয়া-সাভার-গাবতলী থেকে ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় হয়ে কমলাপুরে এমআরটি-২ ও কমলাপুর-নারায়ণগঞ্জের মধ্যে এমআরটি-৪-এর নির্মাণকাজ অব্যাহত রাখবে ঢাকাবাসীর দুর্ভোগ।

মেট্রোরেলের কাজ শেষ হওয়ার আগেই সাবওয়ের কাজ শুরু করতে চায় সেতু কর্তৃপক্ষ। সংস্থাটির পরিকল্পনা অনুযায়ী, ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে ১০২ কিলোমিটার, ২০৪০ সালের মধ্যে আরো ৮৫ কিলোমিটার এবং শেষ ধাপে ২০৫০ সালের মধ্যে ৭১ কিলোমিটার সাবওয়ে লাইন নির্মাণের পরিকল্পনার কথা জানায় সংস্থাটি। প্রকল্পটি বাস্তবায়ন শুরু হলে ১১টি সাবওয়ের নির্মাণকাজে দীর্ঘদিনের জন্য দুর্ভোগে পড়বে ঢাকাবাসী।

বর্তমানে বিমানবন্দর-গাজীপুরে একটি বিআরটি লেনের কাজ চলমান। ২০২৭ সালের মধ্যে গুলিস্তানের মধ্যে আরেকটি বিআরটি লেন নির্মাণের পরিকল্পনা রয়েছে। কাজ শুরু হলে গুলিস্তান-নারায়ণগঞ্জ সড়কে যাতায়াতও কঠিন হবে উঠবে। সম্প্রতি শুরু হয়েছে ঢাকা-আশুলিয়া এলিভেটেড এক্সপ্রেসওয়ের নির্মাণকাজ। মেয়াদ ২০২২ সাল পর্যন্ত হলেও দেরিতে শুরু করার কারণে শেষ করতে কয়েক বছর সময় লেগে যাবে। নির্মাণকাজ চলাকালে সাভার-আশুলিয়া-বাইপাইল-আব্দুল্লাহপুর-বিমানবন্দর সড়কে যাতায়াতে দুর্ভোগে পড়বে ঢাকাবাসী।

তবে এ প্রকল্পের কাজ চলাকালে মানুষ যেন খুব বেশি দুর্ভোগে না পড়ে সেজন্য বিকল্প সড়কের সংস্থান রাখার কথা বণিক বার্তাকে জানিয়েছেন সেতু বিভাগের সচিব আবু বকর ছিদ্দীক। তিনি বলেন, বিআরটি প্রকল্পে জনভোগান্তি হয়েছে। এটা মাথায় রেখেই আমরা ঢাকা-আশুলিয়া এলিভেটেড এক্সপ্রেসওয়ের কাজ চলাকালে একটি বিকল্প সড়ক নির্মাণের পরিকল্পনা করেছি। নির্মাণকাজ চলাকালে যানবাহনগুলো সড়কটি ব্যবহার করবে। এ উদ্যোগ জনভোগান্তি লাঘবে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ভূমিকা রাখবে বলে মনে করেন তিনি।

ঢাকাকে ঘিরে ৮১ কিলোমিটারের একটি বৃত্তাকার রেলপথ নির্মাণের পরিকল্পনা করছে বাংলাদেশ রেলওয়ে। এরই মধ্যে একটি সম্ভাব্যতা সমীক্ষাও করেছে সংস্থাটি। ৭১ কিলোমিটার উড়ালপথে, ১০ কিলোমিটার পাতালপথের এ বৃত্তাকার রেলপথ নির্মাণ প্রকল্পটি এখনো অনুমোদন না হলেও ২০৩৫ সালের মধ্যে শেষ করার পরিকল্পনা করা হচ্ছে। নির্মাণকাজ শুরু হলে প্রকল্পটিও দীর্ঘদিনের জন্য ঢাকাবাসীর ভোগান্তির কারণ হয়ে দাঁড়াবে বলে মনে করছেন সংশ্লিষ্টরা।

এসবের বাইরে ঢাকায় একাধিক রিংরোড, ফ্লাইওভার-ওভারপাস, ফুটপাত-ফুটওভারব্রিজসহ যোগাযোগ অবকাঠামো উন্নয়নে নানাবিধ প্রকল্প চলমান ও পরিকল্পনাধীন অবস্থায় রয়েছে। এসব প্রকল্পের কারণেও দীর্ঘমেয়াদি দুর্ভোগে পড়ছে মানুষ।

উন্নয়ন প্রকল্পে জনদুর্ভোগের বিষয়টি দৃষ্টি আকর্ষণ করলে সড়ক পরিবহন ও মহাসড়ক বিভাগের অতিরিক্ত সচিব এবং ঢাকা পরিবহন সমন্বয় কর্তৃপক্ষের নির্বাহী পরিচালক (অতিরিক্ত দায়িত্বে) নীলিমা আখতার বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, ঢাকায় যানজট পরিস্থিতি ও ক্রমবর্ধমান যানবাহনের চাপে যোগাযোগ অবকাঠামো উন্নয়ন প্রকল্পগুলো বাস্তবায়ন করা অনেক চ্যালেঞ্জের। প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়নের ক্ষেত্রে জনভোগান্তি সবচেয়ে কম পর্যায়ে রাখার বিষয়টিকে আমরা সর্বোচ্চ গুরুত্ব দিয়ে থাকি। তার পরও বাস্তবে দেখা যায়, উন্নয়নকাজের কারণে মানুষের ভোগান্তি হয়। মেট্রোরেল, বিআরটি, এলিভেটেড এক্সপ্রেসওয়ে, সাবওয়ে, সার্কুলার রেলের মতো অনেকগুলো বড় প্রকল্প বর্তমানে বাস্তবায়নাধীন ও ভবিষ্যতে বাস্তবায়নের জন্য পরিকল্পনা পর্যায়ে রয়েছে। জনভোগান্তি সবচেয়ে কম মাত্রায় রেখে এসব প্রকল্প বাস্তবায়নের জন্য সবচেয়ে জরুরি হচ্ছে সমন্বয়ের মাধ্যমে সেগুলো বাস্তবায়ন করা। আমরা সেই কাজটিই করে যাচ্ছি।

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TBS Report

25 December, 2021, 09:35 pm

Last modified: 25 December, 2021, 09:39 pm

Fund commitment, release by donors increases

During July-November, a total of $3.08 billion was released against $2.06 billion at the same time of last fiscal


Both the foreign fund commitment and fund release by development partners have increased significantly in the first five months of the current fiscal year while the government is paying more money as the principal amount and interest of foreign funds compared to last year. 

During the July-November period of FY2021-22, the foreign fund commitment increased by 129% and fund release 49.4%, the latest data of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) showed.

The ERD report said the development partners made a commitment to provide $3.9 billion which was $1.7 billion against the corresponding period last fiscal.

On the other hand, fund release has increased for some projects as the implementation rate of those went up. 

During July-November, a total of $3.08 billion was released against $2.06 billion at the same time of last fiscal.

The government has paid 16% more to the development partners as principal amount and interest of the foreign loans. During the first five months, the government paid $868 million which was $747 million at the corresponding period last fiscal.

ERD officials said the foreign fund commitment by the development partners was less at the onset of the current fiscal year. Recently, the 42nd loan package agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been signed. This loan package includes infrastructure development funds along with budgetary support. 

Besides, a funding agreement for infrastructure projects with a large amount has been signed with China. This also has contributed to the rise of the foreign fund commitment amount.

ERD sources said development partners are making commitments for extra budgetary support for some Covid-centred projects. At the beginning of the pandemic, they made this type of commitment last fiscal. But the collection of the amount committed decreased at the end of last FY and beginning of the current fiscal. The commitment has started rising again, the source said.

Zahid Hussain, former lead economist of the World Bank Dhaka office, told TBS that the budgetary support for Covid-centred projects alongside the project assistance commitment has been increasing. Project assistance depends on the rate of implementation of the project while budgetary support is released soon after the agreement is signed, he added. 

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