Bangladesh needs improved railway sector for boosting economy
Zahid Hossain Biplob: Out of the proposed budgetary allocation woth Tk 121.05 billion for the upcoming fical 2019-20, the external development partners will provide Tk 82.80 billion for further improvement of Bangladesh Railway (BR).
Experts have underscored the need for incresing the allocation including local and abroad for the development of railway system as well as improving economy of the country. They laid emphasis on proper utilisation of foreign funds to promote railway sector of the country accordingly.
The railway ministry implemented only 14.66 percent annual development programme (APP) in the first eight months of the current fiscal due to mainly lack of adequate finance, said sources.
Poor railway service in Bangladesh is impeding economic growth, simultaneously, the railway sector is incurring huge loss for the governent each year.
Considering the necessity of ensuring standard service, the governmt is planning to increase the budgetery allocation for the railway sector.
Bangladesh Railway (BR) is going to receive a record high fund allocation in the next development budget as the quality of its service has been on the decline, insiders said.
They said despite substantial fund allocation over the last one decade, the quality of service of the state-owned agency remains poor.
Planning Commission officials said they are going to allocate Tk 121.05 billion in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) of the fiscal year (FY) 2019-2020, the highest ever allocation for the state rail agency.
The proposed allocation is 70.42 per cent higher than the allocation of Tk 71.03 billion made in the revised ADP of FY2019.
“The BR has been implementing some 40 development projects. It has sought higher volume of fund, saying it will improve its infrastructure and carriage in an attempt to upgrade its services. For this, we have proposed increased funds in the upcoming budget,” said a senior Commission official.
“Not this year alone, we have been allocating higher amount of funds to the Railway for its service improvement over the last 10 years. But the service it offers to the passengers continues to be very poor,” he added.
But the official expressed the hope the record fund allocation will help the BR upgrade its service delivery.
Passengers and experts said the state-run transport agency has failed to develop its infrastructure satisfactorily, with its average speed remaining within 50 kilometres an hour like in the past.
On-time departure and arrival of trains are still a far cry and there is poor development in freight carrier services.
Meanwhile, the government has invested billions of taka over the last one decade expecting a tangible progress in its services.
The Commission official said many overseas development partners, including the Asian Development Bank (ADP), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), India and China have provided substantial support to the BR over the years.
In the upcoming development budget, donor agencies have committed to providing the highest amount of fund, compared with the government’s internal resources, he said.
Out of the proposed budgetary allocation for the railway, the external development partners will provide Tk 82.80 billion while the government would provide Tk 38.25 billion.
The ADB and India have come forward with their increased financial support, especially for developing infrastructure, said another Commission official.
The government has placed top priority on the railway sector and has been boosting the allocations, which have now reached Tk 71.03 billion in the current fiscal’s development budget.
The government has allocated the highest volume of funds from the Indian government’s committed US$1.0 billion worth 1st and US$ 2.0 billion worth 2nd lines of credit (LoC).
Still, the railway authorities have failed to complete projects even under the 1st LoC, signed back in August 2010, officials said.
During FY2008, the government approved the Bangladesh Railway Sector Improvement Project, which has not been completed yet.
Despite repeated reminder from the ADB, the BR has failed to execute the project fully.
While the number of railway passengers has risen over the years, that of its locomotives has fallen.
Railway has lost both passenger and freight-carrying capacity as the number of locomotives, coaches, wagons and tracks is declining.
The railway is unable to meet the huge demand for carrying goods to and from Dhaka and Chattogram due to the scarcity of locomotives and wagons, officials said.
Bringing the resort city of Cox’s Bazar under the railway network is an important initiative taken up by the present government.
Even though the Prime Minister inaugurated the work of the new rail line back in April 2011, the actual work of the Tk 180.34 billion project is still in its initial stage.