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Human resource a major challenge for mega projects

Bangladesh a major developing nation has already attracted the attention of the test of the world for its consistent 6 % plus GDP growth over the past several years despite of many constraints.

Its achievement in many indices of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was much better than many countries. The country is now advancing admirably on the path of achieving national vision of mid income country in 2021 and developed economy in 2041.

Many mega projects of infrastructure development have been initiated .There are many issues and challenges. Among the main challenges are good governance and efficient human resources. Infrastructure development involves adoption of modern state of the art technologies.

These requires qualified, trained work force. Bangladesh to implement the mega infrastructure projects and operate these efficiently urgently requires engagement of qualified human resources providing them efficient through exposure to modern technologies and continued training.

The following projects have been identified as top priority national projects and are being intensively monitored by high powered national committees.

  • Padma Multipurpose Bridge
  • Deep Sea Port
  • Rampal Imported Coal Based Power Plant ( Bangladesh –India Friendship Power Project)
  • Roopoor Nuclear Power Project
  • Dhaka Metro Rail Project
  • Maheskhali Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU ) popularly known as an LNG terminal Project

Some other projects are also being pursued with required attention. These are

  • Elevated express highway at Dhaka
  • Dhaka –Chittagong Four Lane highway
  • Coal ,  LNG terminals and Power Plants at Matarbari , Maheskhali and Payera

Communication and energy infrastructures if implemented on time as scheduled will turn Bangladesh into a vibrant development hub of South Asia by 2030.

Experts identified some major challenges like

  • Governance and human resources
  • Investment
  • Primary fuel
  • Social and Environmental Impacts Management
  • Political stability , law and order situation
  •  Private sector

This write up will primarily deal with governance and human resource challenges. In subsequent write ups all other challenges would be discussed.

Bangladesh like any other developing country does not possess many competent managers and technical executives. It does not mean that talented Bangladeshis are not coming out from still high quality academic institutions but the prevailing state owned enterprises and pure government offices cannot retain services of many young bright officails.

Existing socio economic and political environment also does not encourage honest committed professionals to stay in government jobs in Bangladesh .They either go abroad or take up better opportunities in private sector.

Consequently huge brain drain of competent officails from most of the state owned enterprises over the past several years have created major issues in planning and implementing infrastructure projects and operating these efficiently. State owned enterprises are now suffering from huge man power crisis.

Bangladesh has only achieved limited successes in some areas in privatizing infrastructure development management and operation. Mostly these are still in the domain of underperforming public sector.

Three groups of implementers political leaders in the government, beuaracrats and technocrats hardly work as a team. Consequently many projects are wrongly conceived without required techno economic feasibility study.

The multi-tier approval process is protracted and often not transparent. Many such projects take three to four years from conceptual stage to take off. For this many projects loose its economic viability as time and cost over runs become the logical fate.

There must be soul searching why Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative is not working well.  In most of developed country most of the infrastructure development and operations are done by private sector .Government agencies facilitates, regulate and monitor.

Bangladesh to achieve its visions 2021 and 2040 will desperately need expeditious implementation of the following.

  • Operationalizing Padma Multipurpose bridge with connecting road and railway linkages with Mongla Port
  • Expanding port facilities of Mongla and Chittagong for providing facilities to India , Nepal and Bhutan
  • Implementing all planned coal , LNG and Nuclear Power projects on time
  • Completing all four lane express highways liking Dhaka with the rest of the country
  • Completing all communication infrastructure projects for mitigating traffic mess of Dhaka City ( Dhaka Metro , Elevated Express High Way , All Flyovers , Rapid Bus Transit , City Circular Road , River etc)

One can only guess and imagine how many of what quality technical and managerial professionals the required would for managing all the above projects.

Donor agencies and development partners have identified the requirements and many programs are in place for training and capacity building. But possibly not all available facilities are appropriately utilized.

It is alleged that in the same of exposure and capacity building many persons who are not even remotely associated with specific projects or works are regularly favored with foreign trips depriving the genuine persons.

Example can be given about coal fired power generation and energy projects. Power generation projects are technically intensive. Only line professionals can acquire knowledge and experience from visits and exposure to replicate these best practices at work.

But if one checks certain persons having no clues have misused the facility. Most of these projects mostly conceived in 2010 have not yet taken off. How many communication infrastructure related professionals are sent for capacity development training abroad?

Similar example can be given about facilities upliftment of Bangladesh Ports and inland water ways. There have been many foreign visits without much fruitful development. Many other examples can be given.

All must appreciate that some projects like Nuclear Power Generation, Super Critical Technology in Power Generation, Operation of Coal and LNG terminal, Operation of Metro Rail would require highly qualified and trained professionals.

Business as usual present actions cannot take us anywhere. Managers must be given responsibility and authority for taking decisions. For that they must have core competence which will come from placement of right persons in the right place and giving them proper training and exposure.

Bangladesh for meaning business should do the following without delay

  • Identifying core group of professionals directly involved in projects planning, implementation arrangement. Planning and executing capacity development programs for them.
  • Creating required incentives for qualified and committed professionals in infrastructure projects curtaining beauracracy
  • Outsourcing operations as far as practicable to local private sector that can provide better incentives.

2021 is not too far. Lot needs to be done too soon to go anywhere near achieving the national vision. We hope government launches effective manpower development actions without delay.

Saleque Sufi is an energy expert.

 

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