‘Super plan’ for railways

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has spoken of a ‘super plan’ for the development of the railways sector, what he says will ‘dazzle’ all when he presents the 2013-14 fiscal budget.

“The government will take a revolutionary step for development of the railways, something no previous government had done. We hope our initiative will be continued,” Muhith told bdnews24.com in an interview in his office.

“As part of that plan, the new budget has a super plan for the railways,” he said.

The forthcoming budget session will be the last for the incumbent Awami League-led ruling coalition.

Annual Development Programme (ADP) allocations saw a sharp rise in this year of election. The government is also on a spending spree and bank borrowings are going up sharply.

“The upcoming budget will integrate the socio-economic development of the past four years and will provide pointers for the next government,” he said.

A report will be placed in the parliament on the government’s performance in implementing its poll-time promises.

“The super plan for the railways sector will dazzle all this time. We want to begin a new era for the railways with new projects and sufficient allocations for them.”

Muhith said beside separate allocations, high-technology will be inducted into the railways.

Bangladesh Railway, made up of truncated portions of the erstwhile East Bengal Railway and Bengal Assam Railway (of the then British-Indian rail system), inherited a number of structural and physical weaknesses as the network was not specially designed and constructed to serve Bangladesh.

Since the liberation of Bangladesh, instead of constructing new rail-routes, some of the branch line railway sections were declared redundant and subsequently closed and no proper attention to maintain the existing asset was being given. “Although huge development budget has been allocated for roads & highways sector, a little attention has been given to rail sector,” says a study on Bangladesh Railways by Saidur Rahman.

Rahman says more than 1200 kms rail lines are under risk for operation due to lack of proper maintenance. The railways also face a shortage of locomotives and route capacity.

Rahman says the withdrawal of government funding assistance is a serious threat to the long term survival of the railways.

Now that course-correction is what Muhith seems to be promising in the forthcoming budget.

Muhith said that the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of Tuesday will approve of Tk 740 billion annual development programme (ADP) allotment for fiscal 2013-14.

This year’s allotment seems a bit high owing to expenses involved in developing several automated institutions.

Muhith refused to comment on the size of the budget. “What will I tell on Jun 6 if I reveal everything now? I am working on the budget now and will continued to do so until Jun 2.”

The veteran politician will be placing his seventh budget at the parliament on Jun 6.

From what Muhith said, the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal budget will prioritise power, fuel, roads, railways, ports and infrastructure development.

“Human resource development, agriculture and rural development, employment, empowering social security, climate change and digital Bangladesh will also be important priorities reflected in this budget.”

Source: Bd news24

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