Dhaka halves project cost to access Chinese loan

MIR MOSTAFIZUR RAHAMAN | Monday, 21 June 2021

The government has halved the commercial contract value of the project titled 'Establishing Digital Connectivity' to US$ 473 million from $ 984.70 million, apparently to ensure easy access to Chinese funding, sources said.

Recently, a virtual meeting was held between the concerned government officials of Bangladesh and the Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming where the issue of Chinese funding for the project came up for discussion, a meeting source told the FE.

The information on reduction of the project budget was conveyed to the Chinese government following the meeting, the finance ministry sources said.

The ministry concerned reduced the number of Sheikh Russel Digital Labs to 10,000 from 25,000 while the Specialized Labs to 57 from proposed 72.

Besides, two components--- Point of Interconnect and Foreign Ministry Automation---were dropped, officials said.

The government has sought the Chinese assistance for the project under Preferential Buyers' Credit.

The government earlier implemented a couple of similar projects--- Info Sarker-1 and Info Sarkar-2--- with Chinese funding.

Terming the project crucial for establishing digital connectivity, the Chinese government was informed of the government plan to take digital connectivity to lowest tier and to the end users at the grassroots level.

The 'Establishing Digital Connectivity' project was approved by the cabinet committee on economic affairs in 2018 and later the preliminary loan application was sent to the Chinese embassy on December 27 in the same year.

According to the officials, the government plans to make its services accessible to the people in a faster and easier way by converting them into e-services with the new IT infrastructure covering eight divisions, 64 districts and all upazilas, including union and village levels.

The implementation period of the project, to be implemented by the ICT ministry, started in January 2021 and would complete in December 2024.

According to the proposal, a 21-story tower will be built  in the capital's Purbachal to house an academy featuring modern ICT labs and facilities to nourish the IT entrepreneurs.

Officials said that the ICT department leased a three-bigha plot for the tower, which will create research opportunities for the fourth industrial revolution and human resource development.

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