Mahfuz Emran: The foreign consultants for the foreign donors’ funded projects are grabbing almost cent percent money. As a result, the projects have been creating huge pressure on the government.
In our country, foreign grants are more for technical projects and less for investment projects. Development partners can easily withdraw money from low-cost technical projects. Sometimes the whole of this grant money, sometimes 80-90 percent goes into the pockets of foreign consultants.
The government has no control over this money. However, noting that Bangladesh is no longer in the previous position, the government is in a tough position to curb the dominance and excess of foreign consultants.
An analysis of several development projects submitted to the Planning Commission shows that sometimes the whole, sometimes the lion’s share of the grant goes into the pockets of foreign consultants. Bangladesh is working to reduce its dependence on grants. It has already decreased a lot. The government will also put pressure on development partners in this regard. That is what the people concerned said.
According to the Planning Commission, the total cost of the ‘Preparation of Concept Design and Implementation Plan for Bus Route Rationalization and Company Based Operation of Bus Service in Dhaka’ project is 24 crore 50 lakh 34 thousand taka. Out of this, in the Development Project Proposal (DPP), a total of Tk. 36 foreign consultants in the project.
The government has decided to launch a railway line from Dhaka to Paturia Ghat in Manikganj. Feasibility study and detailed design project for construction of railway line will be implemented before the main project. The total cost of this work will be 56 crore 71 lakh 71 thousand taka. Of this, 41 crore 7 lakh 8 thousand rupees will go to the pockets of consultants only.
On the other hand, the total expenditure under the project ‘Technical Assistance for Road Transport Connectivity Improvement Project Preparatory Facility-2’ has been fixed at Tk. The Department of Road Transport and Highways has proposed to allocate Tk 159.63 crore in the consultancy sector only under this project.
The total cost of the project will come from government funds of Rs 636 million and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will lend Rs 113 crore. All grant money will go to the consultant.
Besides, the project ‘Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building for Road Safety and Maintenance of Roads and Highways Department’ is being taken up. The total cost of the proposed project of Roads and Highways Department (RHD) is Tk 25 crore 45 lakh 20 thousand. All project funds are funded by ADB and Japan Fund for Quality Reduction. Under the project, a total expenditure of Tk 17 crore 32 lakh will be incurred for 200 consultants. As a result, all the money from the project grant goes to the pocket of the consultant.
If you want to know about the appointment of additional foreign consultants in the grant project, the member of the Planning Commission’s Physical Infrastructure Department (Secretary) said. Mamun-al-Rashid told that there is no denying that there are more foreign consultants in the grant-aided project. However, it must be acknowledged that many projects require foreign consultants.
For example, we have less experience in Metrorail, Tunnel, Padma Bridge, Bridge construction projects, there is no alternative to foreign consultants. But we are aware now.
Skilled manpower is also being created in the country. We are imposing restrictions on hiring foreign consultants. I am emphasizing on recruitment of domestic manpower. Grant money means reliance on foreign consultants – this trend is being curtailed.
According to the Planning Commission, there are 120 technical assistance projects in the annual development program for the fiscal year 2021-22. Technical assistance project means grant dependence. Almost all of the grant money goes to foreign consultants. The total cost of the technical assistance project in the current financial year is Tk 1,640.96 crore. The government funding for the project is Tk 458.36 crore.
Besides, the foreign grant for these projects is Tk 1,383.54 crore. Domestic money is spent on other areas including project office management. However, Tk 1,383.54 crore of the grant will go to the pocket of the consultant.
It is learned that more grant schemes are being implemented in 26 general government service departments. The total cost of these projects is Tk. 398.06 crore. Of this, Tk 338.24 crore will be spent on consultants.
Since then, 18 grant projects have been running in the transport and communication department. The total cost of these projects is Tk 448.56 crore. Out of this, Tk 26 crore 94 lakh will be spent for the consultant. The lowest project implementation with the grant money is a total of one lakh in religion, culture and entertainment department, at a total cost of Tk. All the money will go to the consultant.
Besides 3 in public order and protection, 10 in industry and economic services, 10 in agriculture, 6 in power and energy, 5 in local government and rural development, 5 in environment, climate change and water resources, 5 in housing and community facilities, 5 in health, 10 in education, 6 in science and information technology. 4 and 8 projects in social security are being implemented with grant money. The lion’s share of these projects will be spent in the consulting sector.
“We have no hand in the grant money,” Planning Minister MA Mannan told about the cost of the grant money behind the consultants. It happens the way the donors say. Grant money means for the consultant. There are more foreign consultants in these projects. If there is a local consultant, be their favorite person. Those who give grants do as they say. However, this practice needs to be broken. The grant will be a fictitious consultant, it can’t be.
Economists say that for various reasons, the grant money is going to the pockets of the consultants. The government does not want to take loans for technical projects. In addition, donors are able to withdraw money through consultants. The cost of the investment project is much higher. As a result, development partners do not provide grants for investment projects. Development partners do not pay for the construction of the bridge. But the grant for the construction of the bridge.
In this regard, the former chief economist of the World Bank Bangladesh Residential Mission. Zahid Hossain told that it is more expensive for the consultant to implement the project with the help of grant money. There are more consultants in technical projects. In the context of grants for technical projects. Zahid Hossain said that there are more consultants in technical projects due to various reasons. The government doesn’t care much about foreign consultants because of grant money. But we have to see if the people who are being hired as consultants are right.
Zahid Hossain said in response to a question as to why grants come in technical projects and not in investment projects, the cost of technical projects is less. Development partners can withdraw money by preparing a project report. Investment projects do not provide grants for these projects as the cost is high. In fact, no one will give loans without their own interest.
Decreasing foreign grants
According to the Economic Relations Department (ERD), the amount of foreign aid has come down to the minimum level of 3 percent due to the strong economy of Bangladesh. In FY 1981-82, grants accounted for a maximum of 6 percent of foreign aid, and loans ranged from 6 to 7 percent. In the financial year 2009-10, the grant was 30 percent and the loan was 60 percent. In FY 2018-19, grants were as high as 5 percent, and loans were 95 percent.
Grants have further decreased in the 2019-20 financial year, which is in the range of 2-3 percent. 98 percent is coming as loan. In the 1996-97 fiscal year, foreign aid was waived at $748 million, with debt accounting for 30.46 percent of GDP. In the fiscal year 2019-20, the foreign aid was 7,121 million dollars, which was 13.34 percent of the GDP.
Concerned parties said that Bangladesh is no longer dependent on donations. The country is dependent on its own skills. The country is developing. As a result, foreign grants are being reduced. The government is working to curb the hiring of foreign consultants in many projects.
An additional secretary in the economic relations department told that foreign aid was declining as the country moved forward. However, it is seen that foreign grants mean that money is going into the pockets of foreign consultants. The government is planning to curb it. The government wants to reduce the number of foreign consultants in grant projects. There are also consultants of this quality in the country. Even if foreign consultants are reduced, many local skilled people will get employment opportunities. We will not run like those who give generously.
One of the development partners of Bangladesh is World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), China, India, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), German Development Corporation (GIZ),European Union German state-owned development bank (KFW), European Union (EU), German development bank (KFW) Russia, United States.
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