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May 11, 2013

Accelerate Infrastructure Delivery to the People
Portfolio Review Meeting of ODA Loans

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Bangladesh as a nation has been destabilized suffering from political disputes, aggravated Islamic movement and recent Savar building tragedy. Amid complex and difficult situation, JICA determines to stand by Bangladesh for supporting government's efforts for the development, and is taking various approaches to foster our assistance. ODA Loan is a scheme to finance Government of Bangladesh (GoB)'s public development project and sometimes the project implementation is delayed due to a lumbering systemic bureaucracy. In case of an infrastructure project, it takes 5-7 years to complete from the Loan Agreement signing (consultant employment → design → contractor procurement → construction). We, together with GoB, are always giving effort to speed up implementation for quick delivery of project deliveries (power, road/bridge, water etc.) to the people.

In view of the above, 11 May, 2013(Sat), the High Level Portfolio Review Meeting (HLPRM) for ongoing Japanese ODA Loan projects was held chaired by Secretary of ERD, Ministry of Finance. Main purposes of HLPRM are to review overall issues of all on-going projects and confirm the disbursement projection for Japanese Fiscal Year (JFY) 2013; and to identify project-wide bottlenecks and discuss possible solution for better project implementation.

In his opening remark, ERD Secretary Mr. Azad showed his sincere appreciation to JICA, biggest bilateral donor agency in Bangladesh, not only about its volume of operation but also the quality. "JICA once sent me a letter expressing their concern about the delay of power plant project construction", he said remembering his previous assignment of Power Division Secretary, "noting that "your people need power, so let us take necessary actions to implement the project together". This is the approach of encouragement which differs from others donors. This is a Japanese way".

Relating the disbursement, we looked back the performance since 2000 and reconfirmed the recent huge leap of overall Yen Loan operation along with rapid economic growth of this country. Looking down where we are standing, FY2012 was the year of "Turning Point" of Bangladesh operation, with the new commitment amount 166.4 billion JPY (4 times larger than that of FY2008) and disbursement amount 33.6 billion JPY (11 times larger than that of FY2008). We have come to the mutual commitment of further increase of disbursement in FY2013. However, it was reiterated that the upward trend may go "U-Turn", unless strong initiative to facilitate smooth project implementation will be taken appropriately by Government of Bangladesh (GoB).

For the project management, JICA requested GoB to put more importance on project preparation stage for quick start-up of projects (DPP/TPP approval, PIU establishment/project staff assignment, sufficient budget etc.). Also, improvement of quality & speed of public procurement and enhancement of Executing Agency's project management (contract management, delegation of authority etc.) were urged. Those issues have been well recognized and merely improved as deep-rooted problems within the GoB, however, we will tenaciously address them for improvement of GoB system by sharing concrete problems in each project among Secretaries.

By the end of HLPRM, ERD Secretary proposed to develop a periodical monitoring system with JICA to follow up the major issues discussed in the meeting, and sought opportunity for JICA to extend an intensive training for Project Directors for better project management. JICA will consider and take necessary actions accordingly.

HLPRM offered a forum for active and vibrant discussions among Planning Secretary Mr. Bhuiyan, Roads Division Secretary Mr. Siddique, Power Division Secretary Mr. Monowar, Railway Secretary Mr. Azad and other major ministry officials, and Chairman/MDs and PDs from Executing Agencies. First Secretaries from Embassy of Japan were also present. The total number of participants was more than 60.

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