SLOW implementation of development projects is not a new syndrome of the government's work culture. One need not have to be gifted with any special intellectual faculty to understand why the development activities are progressing at a snail's pace. One can always point a finger at a hundred and one reasons to explain away the failure of the various ministries to complete the projects, especially the foreign aided ones in time. But completing a project within the scheduled time is one thing, while giving a reason for its non-performance is another. The finance minister while reviewing the status of the donor funded projects expressed his annoyance with the slow pace of implementation of the development projects. He identified the tardiness on the part of the donors to release their share of the project fund as one of the reasons for the slow pace of project implementation. But why the donors do delay the disbursement of their fund is another matter and the minister did not make any attempt to elucidate further on that point. But he hastened to add that the implementing agencies of the project have to make do with whatever domestic resources they have under their disposal to maintain the implementation schedule until the donor's portion of the project fund is released.
It is to be noted here that the line ministries responsible for the execution of the projects are no angels either. In point of fact, they also match their development partners by failing to expedite the process of sending the bills against their completed works to the ministry of finance. It has been revealed by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the planning ministry that during the first quarter of the current fiscal (2005-06), the different ministries responsible for implementing the donor-aided projects have further decelerated their pace of work in comparison to their performance record during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal by about three per cent. That is because, of the 144 foreign-aided projects worth Tk 75 billion under implementation in this financial year, the work has been completed only for 17 per cent of the projects. But in the same period the year before, the rate of progress was 20 per cent.
The finance minister who expressed his dissatisfaction at such sloth in project implementation did stop short of putting in plain words if there was any special reason for this extra sluggishness in this year. However, the age-old question of the capacity of the ministries concerned to fully utilise the project funds within the stipulated time has again been brought to focus as a justification. But what does the lack of capacity really mean? In effect, one could also use the term inefficiency in place of lack of capacity to depict the reality on the ground. Now the next question that comes naturally is: which organ of the state is suffering from this lack of capacity or inefficiency? Everyone with common sense knows that it is the bureaucracy. Though the answer is clear to all, the finance minister was not ready to admit that.
The bureaucracy must be ready to take the blame for the failure to complete the donor-aided projects along with the political power at the helm. It is time the in-built system of corruption and inefficiency in the government bureaucracy is identified as the worst enemy of progress. The political exigency, especially in the election year, is also a point that no government minister should make light of under any circumstances. The ministers must also answer for the bloated budget for the current fiscal's Annual Development Programme (ADP). Given the present pace of work, the government will have to be all-out to complete all the 859 development projects including some 333 donor-aided ones in the ADP worth about Tk. 245 billion within schedule. In this connection, the government must not give any indulgence to the consideration of political constituencies in the expenditure of the project funds. And that will be the litmus test of its sincerity in the implementation of the development projects in question.