The first nine months of the current fiscal year of 2020-21 saw slow implementation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) with only 41.92 per cent of the total outlay spent till March while development spending declined 3.27 per cent year-on-year.
But surprisingly, some ministries and divisions have made much progress in implementing their development programmes, in some cases much higher than the overall level of 41.92 per cent.
However, the implementation rates of sectors mainly related to fighting the pandemic are very low.
The latest data from the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) shows that Tk 87,734.57 crore was spent from July to March against the total yearly ADP allocation of Tk 209,272 crore.
The expenditure in these nine months declined 3.27 per cent year-on-year from Tk 90,704.23 crore spent in the same period last fiscal year.
The environment, forest and climate change ministry implemented the highest 63.56 per cent of its development programmes till March.
Other ministries and divisions that had highest implementation rates in this period include the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division (60.47 per cent), Energy and Mineral Resources Division (55.51 per cent), science and technology ministry (54.03 per cent), Power Division (51.62 per cent) and Bridge Division (51.13 per cent).
On the contrary, health service division implemented the lowest 20.99 per cent.
Other sectors that showed lower implementation rates include the social welfare ministry (30.66 per cent), food ministry (31.55 per cent), women and children affairs ministry (40.48 per cent).
Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist of World Bank’s Dhaka office, said it was easy to blame the pandemic for everything that has gone awry with ADP implementation this year.
There certainly is truth in it, but it cannot be the whole truth, he said.
He said this was evident from a comparison of ministries whose implementation rates were higher than the overall 41.9 per cent rate during the nine months till March and the ones whose implementation rates were lower.
“Sectors instrumental for fighting and coping with the pandemic are among some of the worst performers,” said the economist.
Sectors responsible for helping the economically distressed, such as the ministries of food, social welfare, and women also failed to rise to the occasion, he added.
There is no easy explanation of such ill execution, he said, adding, “Perhaps we must revisit the ways in which state capacity building has been supported, both internally and externally, in the past.”
Numerous initiatives promoting greater transparency and accountability in public financial management have failed to push ministries to reform the ways of delivering their mandates, he said.
Business as usual appears resilient to both national imperatives and grassroot pressure, said Hussain.
Efforts to promote good governance through increased transparency and accountability without simultaneously incorporating efforts to strengthen enforcement have failed to deliver, he said.
Development spending was picking up pace since January after a bumpy ride in the first half of the fiscal year.
The country’s economy was impacted intensely due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year and it was also reflected in the ADP implementation.
The average monthly implementation rate in the first nine months of the fiscal since July was at 4.66 per cent.
Following more than two months of a countrywide shutdown till June last year, movement restrictions were gradually lifted and activities started returning to pre-pandemic level by October.
The country’s economy started seeing signs of a gradual recovery with the number of adult workers seemed to have returned to pre-Covid level in February this year.
This economic rebound helped the implementation of the development programmes in picking up pace early on this calendar year.
The monthly ADP implementation rate reached 7.23 per cent in March when the expenditure stood at Tk 15,131.21 crore, which was 43.25 per cent higher than the monthly expenditure of Tk 10561.18 crore in the same month last fiscal 2019-20.
But the ADP implementation may face challenges again due to recent restrictive measures taken earlier this month and a fresh lockdown imposed last week to control a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
The seven-day countrywide lockdown imposed on April 14 could be extended for one more week while there was a possibility for it to be extend till Eid-ul-Fitr.
IMED Secretary Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty said government projects have not been halted at all, rather work was being done during the lockdown through special arrangements like keeping workers at workplaces.
There are some challenges, greater challenges indeed, he said.
He hoped to timely complete the projects which have a completion timeline by this fiscal.
Feasibility works of some projects would be done digitally, he said, adding that every sector had been hurt due to the fresh hit of Covid-19.