The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has put the Tk236 crore Teletalk 5G expansion project on hold for now as nearly 80% of the project equipment would have to be sourced from abroad, which would increase the pressure on the country's depleting foreign exchange reserves.
"The prime minister thinks Teletalk's 5G project is not needed right now. [Its] 4G service needs to be ensured first in all parts of Bangladesh," Planning Minister MA Mannan told the media after a meeting of Ecnec on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the meeting virtually from her official residence Gonobhaban.
Briefing the media later, the planning minister said, "Not just Teletalk, all mobile operators have been asked to increase their coverage of 4G."
"As the government has opted for austerity and Teletalk's 5G project is largely import dependent, the project has been dropped to reduce the pressure on the use of dollars," he added.
With the Tk236 crore project, Teletalk had planned to launch its 5G services in the capital by next year.
Whether this project can be implemented with foreign loans was also discussed during the meeting, MA Mannan said. "In this context, the prime minister said we have firstly to consider the conditions attached to the loans. Decision will be made later."
At Tuesday's meeting, seven projects, including three revised ones, involving Tk2,007 crore were approved.
Of the revised ones, the project cost of the capital's Uttara Lake development has been increased to Tk91 crore, from its initial cost of Tk53 crore.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wondered why the design of the project will be changed midway. She, however, ordered a fast implementation of the project and looking to the drainage system so that there is no waterlogging.
Other revised projects are the rehabilitation of polders along the Naf River in Ukhia and Teknaf Upazilas, and Development of Jail Training Centre in Rajshahi.
The fresh projects approved at the meeting are land acquisition, providing compensation to the victims and their rehabilitation in order to establish the divisional headquarters for Mymensingh; strengthening research activities of the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture; Procurement of Equipment and Machineries from Belarus for Selected Municipalities and City Corporations; and Extension and Modernisation of Dhaka Central Drug Addiction Treatment Centre.