PRS Implementation Forum meet begins
Govt for timely disbursement of aid, donors for early removal of roadblocks
Shakhawat Hossain and AZM Anas
The government Tuesday requested the international donors to disburse their financial assistances in time to help implement its budgetary programmes.
But the donors asked the government to remove major impediments to growth and development expeditiously.
High officials of the major donor countries and agencies at the three-day inaugural session of the 'Poverty Reduction Strategy Implementation Forum' meeting said the aim of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) will be missed if the hartal, violence and partisan activities continue to hinder the development process in the country. The Forum is being held in Dhaka to take stock of the anti-poverty plan.
They threatened to reconsider their support in execution of the poverty reduction roadmap unless the hindrances are curbed within next 15 months.
Terming the PRSP a crucial document for Bangladesh and its 140 million people, representatives of the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified corruption, law and order situation and slow pace of reform as the main obstacles to its proper implementation.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia inaugurated the PRS Implementation Forum 2005 at a local hotel expressing the hope that the PRSP would empower country's millions of poor people in overcoming pervasive poverty.
"The multi-dimensional approach seeks to put the poor at the forefront of our perennial battle against poverty," said Khaleda Zia.
Speaking at the occasion, Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman said the aid committed by donors should be disbursed in time to enable the government to implement the budget.
"We have been encountering serious difficulties due to unpredictability of DSC III", said Saifur Rahman on the delay by the WB to release of the third installment of the development support credit (DSC) worth $ 200 million.
Praful C Patel, the WB South Asia vice president, said the development partners will take note of reform of the National Board of Revenue and enactment of the procurement law in next one year.
He called upon the government to give special emphasis on infrastructure, local government and good governance for getting desirable effect from the PRSP.
"One of Bangladesh's biggest challenges is infrastructure, especially power" he said adding that corruption, reform of judiciary and sectoral governance are other important factors.
ADB managing director Young Hoi Lee suggested improvement of governance, law and order situation and curbing corruption as criteria for getting his bank's cooperation in implementation the PRSP.
"Corruption is severe impediment to socioeconomic development, and its burden falls heavily on the shoulder of the poor and the vulnerable," he said.
The WB, the ADB and Japan along with the DFID of UK adopted joint Country Assistance Strategy last June.
IMF head of the delegation Tom Rombaugh stressed the need for special care to keep up the pace of reforms in the financial sectors, including the NBR and the banking sector.
Underscoring the need for properly activating the Anti-Corruption Commission, Rombaugh said the reform in the banking sector has turned out to be slow due to complexities in disinvestment procedure of the Rupali Bank.
"The NBR needs reform," he said adding that unless revenue efforts and tax administration are improved, revenues will be insufficient to implement the PRSP and fund pro-poor expenditures.
Kazi Mezbahuddin Ahmed, member of the general economic division under the planning division, will present a paper on the implementation of the PRSP agenda for the next three years in the first session of the second day.
In the second session, Principal Secretary Kamal Uddin Siddique will present his paper on the social development, empowerment of the poor and the vulnerable.
The last topic of the second day on enhancing competitiveness for the promoting trade, investment and private sector development will be presented by Energy Adviser and Board of Investment (BoI) Executive Director Mahmudur Rahman.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh's top donors are likely to raise the issue of the killings of two senior assistant judges in Jhalakathi during their ongoing meeting with the government officials on the anti-poverty plan or the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
"The Jhalakathi incident has certainly clouded the atmosphere of the forum," a high official of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said in a downbeat tone.
Suicide bombers of the outlawed Islamic militant group, Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) launched the attack on the car carrying the senior assistant judges Jagannath Pandey and Sohel Ahmed.
Unlike the previous meetings of the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF), the ERD is the main organiser of the event. Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman will chair the sessions.
In the five plenary sessions, the representatives of the country's bilateral and multilateral donors are also expected to raise the front-burner issues such as the recurrence of bomb attacks, the resurgence of religious extremism, and the electoral reform, sources added.
The agenda of the three-day meet include PRS implementation, social development, empowerment of the poor and the vulnerable, enhancement of the competitiveness for promoting trade and investment, governance, aid harmonization and aid effectiveness.
Officials of the Finance Ministry acknowledged that the bomb attacks on the judges would have a negative impact on the aid climate as the government is negotiating with the donors to help implement the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
The officials seemed to be prepared to face up to the donor representatives on the issue.
But the relations between the government and the donor community have turned frosty in recent times because of a number of factors.
The delay in enacting the Public Procurement Law 2005 has irked the World Bank forcing the development lender to suspend its third installment of the Development Support Credit (DSC).