All above 14 to get smart NIDs; Ecnec clears project

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Dhaka, Nov 24: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday approved seven projects involving Tk 10,702 crore, including a Tk 1805-crore one to provide all citizens, aged above 14, with smart national identity cards.

The approval came from the weekly Ecnec meeting held at the NEC conference room.  Ecnec Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the meeting joining it from Ganobhaban through a videoconference.

“Today’s meeting approved a total of seven development projects placed by the Prime Minister’s Office and four ministries. The total estimated cost of the seven projects is Tk 10,702.23 crore,” said Planning Division Senior Secretary Md Ashadul Islam while briefing reporters after the meeting.

Of the total cost, Tk 6,459.27 crore will be borne from the government’s fund, while the remaining Tk 4,242.96 crore will come from foreign sources as loan, he said.

Among those, five projects are new while the two are revised ones.

Talking about the ‘Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) (Phase-II)’ Project, Planning Commission member Abul Kalam Azad said the Election Commission Secretariat will implement the project from December 2020 to November 2025 spending Tk 1,805.09 crore.

He said the new project has been taken as the running IDEA project’s period will expire in December next.

“Under the new project, all the citizens above 14 years of age will get smart NID cards. Besides, the Election Commission will send its teams to 40 largest host countries of expatriate Bangladeshis to enroll them in the voter list and provide them with NID services,” he said.

The major operations of the project include production and personalisation of smart cards, said Abul Kalam Azad.

He said the old equipment and technologies of the existing project will be used in the new project. So, the project cost will decline significantly.

“We’ve placed a recommendation at the meeting that the NID services can be brought under the revenue budget not keeping it under any project,” he said.

The government is considering whether all data registration activities including NID registration, birth and death registration and the registration activities carried out by Directorate General of Family Planning can be brought under a single entity, he added.

Ecnec also endorsed another two projects under the Western Economic Corridor & Regional Enhancement Programme (WeCARE) Phase 1 — Rural Connectivity, Market and Logistic Infrastructure Improvement Project (RCMLIIP) and Jhenidah-Jashore Highway (N-7) Development project.

Talking about the project, another member of Planning Commission, Mamun Al Rashid, said it has been taken aiming to improve the communication network of Benapole, Asian Highway, including Bhomra Land Port and Mongla Sea Port, Saarc Highway Corridor, Bimstec Road Corridor and SASEC Road Corridor with the northwestern region of the country.

He said the Roads and Highways Department will execute the project by December 2023 as the Prime Minister has cut down the project period by two years.

It will be implemented in Jashore Sadar, Jhenaidah Sadar and Kaliganj upazilas at a cost of Tk 4,187.70 crore. Of the cost, the World Bank will provide Tk 2,705.65 crore while the rest of Tk 1,482.04 crore will come from government funds.

The WeCARE Phase-1: Rural Connectivity, Market and Logistic Infrastructure Improvement Project (RCMLIIP) will be implemented at a cost of Tk 2180.99 crore, aiming to improve the socio-economic condition by increasing the facilities for transport, supply, marketing and preservation of agricultural products through improvement of rural communication network.

The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) will execute the project in 18 upazilas under four districts –-Jashore, Magura, Chaudanga and Jhenaidah—by June 2025, said member of Planning Commission Zakir Hossain Akanda.

About the delay in project implementation, the Prime Minister asked the ministries and divisions to make lists of the construction firms and contractors featuring their work history and not to award several projects to a firm at a time.

The Prime Minister gave the directive to help emergence of new firms and contractors, said the Senior Secretary.

During the approval of ‘Khurushkul Special Ashrayan’ project involving Tk 1.333.61 crore, the PM asked the authorities concerned to be careful so that no outsider except the targeted beneficiaries get accommodation in the project site.

The two revised projects are ‘Development of Necessary Infrastructures and Facilities for Conducting Operations of Payra Port (2nd revised) involving Tk 1,023.96 crore and ‘Establishment of Sheikh Hasina Tatpalli’ Phase-1 (1st revised) with an additional cost of Tk 54.15 crore.