Dev projects being hampered

The recent outbreak of coronavirus in China has put a big challenge to the country’s economy pushing the future of several development projects worth crores of taka towards uncertainty. A number of 12 mega development projects in the country worth Tk 1,11,000 crore are being financed by China.

China is directly investing in these infrastructure, telecommunication, power and railway based mega development projects. As per loan policy, China was supposed to appoint the contractors and necessary manpower to these projects, besides supplying the raw materials needed. But the sudden outbreak of the virus has created uncertainty over implementation of the projects in projected time.

On the other hand, China is working as contractor in several mega projects, including Padma Bridge Project and Matarbari Deep Sea Port Project. Many Chinese nationals are working as top officials of these projects. Officials involved in the projects said the projects would not be implemented in due time if the coronavirus crisis cannot be tackled soon. As a result, cost of the projects would surely be increased. Moreover, they said, grace period for repaying the Chinese loan is comparatively less while the interest rate is comparatively high.

“In a word, the country’s development initiatives are going to be severely hampered,” observed sources related to development projects.
According to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the government, China has been giving loan and donation for various sectors of Bangladesh for quite a long period of time. Construction of infrastructures, telecommunications, information and communications technology, industries, electricity and fuel, transportation, railways, agriculture, disaster management, health and education, among others, are the sectors where China has been giving financial cooperation to Bangladesh for years.

However, the conditions for receiving Chinese loan are stricter and interest is higher than interest of the loan of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). ERD Asia Wing chief and additional secretary Shahriar Kader Siddiqui said, “Currently there is no problem with financing. But what’s the use of financial release if the money cannot be spent?”

He, however, said, Chinese loan is ‘tight loan’. Manpower, necessary equipment and contractor are to be brought from China in the Chinese projects. These all are part of conditions for Chinese loan. If export-import of China remains shut and manpower for the project cannot arrive, in that case implementation of the projects will be affected, he added.

“Except the ongoing big projects in China’s hand, there are several other projects in the pipeline. Now we will be benefitted if the coronavirus crisis is resolved quickly. It’ll be beneficial for the world too,” he added. Under Chinese financing, the Tk 39,247 crore Padma Bridge railway connection project is underway, which is scheduled to be completed within 2024. But the completion of the project might take more time due to the coronavirus crisis.

Director of the project Anwarul Haque said some 884 Chinese nationals are working in this project. Absence of many of the important personnel including the project director of the Chinese contractor company has become a matter of concern. Till nearly 250 personnel are yet to come back though their period of leave has been over.

China will give Tk 13115 crore loan for the Tk 18,035 crore Dohajari-Dhunghum rail line installation project. Some 90 Chinese nationals are working in this project. Out of them, 31 had gone to China on leave and were to return on 5 February but they did not return. There are such many projects where China has been financing and lots of Chinese nationals are working. If the coronavirus crisis is not solved soon, all these projects will face problems, concerned persons said.