Unapproved and unallocated development projects are recorded on the green pages of the ADP book. Project approval is granted on a priority basis from the list on these pages and necessary allocations are given based on the need in a financial year.
Many important projects in the country's health sector have been stuck in the green pages for years but have not received any priority for the government's approval.
The Annual Development Programme (ADP) proposed for the upcoming fiscal year has included 60 such projects in the health, nutrition, population and family welfare sector.
A project to develop and expand the existing infrastructure of five old medical colleges – Dhaka Medical College, Chattogram Medical College, Sir Salimullah Medical College, Mymensingh Medical College and Rajshahi Medical College– was approved in the ADP about five years ago.
The proposed project was scheduled to begin in July 2017 and end in 2020.But it has not yet received the final approval from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council and has not been included in the ADP finally.
However, separate projects have been proposed in the ADP for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21 to develop and expand the infrastructure of these medical colleges.
Meanwhile,another two projects– construction of infrastructure and expansion of additional facilitiesof Dhaka-based Mugda Medical College Hospitaland building up of dormitories for doctors and nurses at the root level – were also included on the list of unapproved and unallocated projects.
But, none received the government's green signal to proceed further.
Many such proposed projects have been lying unattended in the ADP book year after year.
These include, among others, construction of hostels or dormitories for doctors, nurses, staff and trainees atAzimpur-based maternal and child health training institute in Dhaka, construction of Chandpur Medical College and Hospital, and establishment of medical waste management system at the district level.
However, in the next fiscal year, there are 62 running projects in the health sector at a total cost of nearly Tk58,632 crore. The new ADP allocation, including the bulk allocation, is Tk13,033 crore for 2020-21.
Besides, there were 42 unapproved projects in the revised ADP for the current financial year.
Interest more on new infrastructure development projects
From the current financial year, the Planning Commission has made it mandatory to prepare high, medium and low priority lists to allow unapproved projects considering their importance.
Chattogram, Rajshahi and Sylhet medical universities are among the five new infrastructure development projects which are on the high priority list of the DGHS.
Among them, the proposal for approval of the Chattogram Medical University projecthas been sent back from the Planning Commission as it has shown higher costs for various types of equipment and tools.
Meanwhile, three projects – infrastructure development and expansion of Sir Salimullah Medical College and Hospital and Mymensingh Medical College and Hospital, expansion of Barishaland Chattogram medical college hospitalsand expansion of Rangpur and Rajshahi medical college hospitals – are on the medium priority list.
Planning Commission officials said ministries and departments list priority projects;so, the commission has no hand in this.
Project coston the rise
Planning Commission officials also said the allocation for health in Bangladesh is less than one percent of the GDP. For this reason, many projects have long been hanging on the ADP's list of unapproved projects.
The costs of these projectsare more than doubling in five years.
Besides, it is not possible to allocate funds as per the demand in ongoing projects. As a result, implementation takes a long time and the project cost increases.
When asked, Planning Secretary Nurul Aminsaid the commission often has to approve those projects which are requested by ministers and lawmakers to implement their election promises for their areas.
"This causes delay in approving important projects. For the same reason, allocations for many ongoing projects are also reduced," he remarked.
"The commission has to work in the way ministries and departments set priorities. This is happening in the health sector as well as in other sectors."
Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam, a former adviser to the caretaker government, said the Planning Commission should be allowed to function independently.
"They have a role to play in identifying and approving projects of national importance. On the other hand, the health ministry should also explain why a project is getting priority," he commented.