The delay in implementing PPP seems deliberate
At its inception, the Awami League-Jatiya Party government came up with apparently a new policy called public-private partnership—albeit already practiced in different countries—to tap the private sector’s potential in its ‘mega infrastructure projects’. It was deemed by various quarters, especially those who are not opposed to private sector’s role in the infrastructural development but do not seek to pursue a policy allowing the latter any room to hold people hostage in the name of development, as some sort of balanced way to the much-coveted economic advancement of the country. Moreover, the finance ministry estimate, quoted in a report published in New Age on Saturday, appears to have rightly pointed out that, if in place, the public-private partnership would create a synergic effect in elevating the investment share of the gross domestic product to 35 to 40 per cent required—as per experts’ suggestion—to turn the country a middle-income one within a short period, from the existing 24 to 25 per cent, a figure over which the investment share of the GDP has been hovering for last few years.
What is, however, regrettable is that little progress has been made in this regard thus far. According to the report, the government allocated more than Tk 35 billion in the budget for three years and a half to implement the PPP scheme, but it has failed to spend even a single penny in this direction till now. Additionally, although the government has already set up a company named Bangladesh Infrastructure Finance Fund Limited and appointed the chief executive officer of the PPP Cell under the prime minister’s office in an apparent move to assuage people’s suspicion of its sincerity to let the scheme take place, the scheme is reportedly still confined to mere paper work. As the PPP cell CEO admitted to New Age, they need to ‘prepare several more policy papers before launching’ the scheme in full swing and at least 18 months more to make ‘visible’ the progress in implementing projects under the scheme. Intriguingly enough, the incumbent government has only around 15 months in its hand before the end of its stipulated tenure. Overall, one could be forgiven to raise question if the delay in bringing the PPP projects to light is deliberate or not.
Bangladesh, as a developing country, requires huge investment in infrastructural sectors including power, energy and communications that are currently in a wretched condition. It is also true that, with a huge portion of the population still under the poverty line, it hardly has the ability to collect as much taxes as needed to help public sector run adequate projects in those sectors. But, unfortunately, apparently cashing in on such a situation, successive governments have increasingly resorted to rampant privatization, lowering the role of public sector when it concerns development, over decades.
It is imperative for the government to redouble its effort to make the PPP scheme a reality soon, as it committed in its election manifesto, to put development ‘on fast track’ with ever-increasing growth rates.
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