Around 500,000 expatriate workers have so far returned home since the COvid-19 pandemic started
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has approved a Tk427.30 crore project to create jobs for the expatriate workers who have returned home from abroad because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The approval came from the first Ecnec meeting of the current fiscal year (FY2021-22) held on Wednesday, with Ecnec Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The premier joined the meeting virtually from her official Ganabhaban residence while concerned ministers, state ministers, Planning Commission members and secretaries concerned attended it from the NEC in Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that a total of 10 projects were approved Wednesday, involving an overall estimated cost of Tk2,575.42 crore.
“Of the total project cost, Tk2,150.42 crore will come from the government while the rest of Tk425 crore as project assistance,” he added.
Of the approved 10 projects, seven are new and three are revised projects.
Newly appointed State Minister for Planning Shamsul Alam was also among those who attended the briefing.
Mannan said the Wage Earners Welfare Board under the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment will implement the Tk427 crore project by December 2023, under which Tk13,500 would be provided to each of some 200,000 expatriate workers who have returned home from different countries.
The World Bank will provide Tk425 crore as a loan for the project.
He said the workers will be given necessary orientation and counselling while some 23,500 selected skilled workers would be facilitated to get jobs both at home and abroad.
Time to pay them back
Commenting on the project, the planning minister said these expatriate workers have returned home from abroad due to various reasons and they have contributed a lot over the years towards the development of the country.
“Now the time has come to pay them back and for this, support will be provided to these returnee workers so that they can be involved in respectable jobs again,” he added.
Shamsul Alam said around 500,000 expatriate workers have so far returned home while 200,000 returnee workers would be given support under the project.
He informed that a rich database would be made under the project to ascertain the actual number of returnee workers following the impact of the pandemic and thus support would be provided to them.
Joining the briefing, Planning Commission Member Sharifa Khan said that initially 200,000 returnee workers would be included under the project and the project coverage would be expanded further in future.
She informed that the support of Tk13,500 to each returnee worker would help them bear their initial expenses and thus allow them to collect necessary certificates from various agencies.
Answering a question, Sharifa said that numbers of around 480,000 returnee workers were collected from the help desk of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The project area covers 32 districts, namely Dhaka, Tangail, Kishoreganj, Narsingdi, Munshiganj, Faridpur, Gopalganj, Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Pabna, Bogra, Naogaon, Rajshahi, Sirajganj, Barisal, Patuakhali, Kushtia, Jessore, Khulna, Feni, Noakhali, Chandpur, Chittagong, Brahmanbaria, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Comilla, Sylhet, and Sunamganj.
The project operations also include creating linkage among the technical and financial support providing agencies and the returnee workers so that they can get financial support, creating awareness among the common people including the returnee workers about the operations of Wage Earners Welfare Board through holding meetings, workshops and seminars at the district, upazila and union level.
The other projects
Referring to the approval of a Tk568.93 crore project to construct three underpasses on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway and U loop at Paduarbazar intersection, Mannan said the prime minister asked the authorities concerned and the Roads and Highways Division to keep the provision of underpasses, overpasses and U loops while building new roads and highways to ensure smooth movement of vehicles and people and thus save time.
Regarding the approval of a Tk146.87 crore project to construct the Bangladesh Chancery Building at Canberra in Australia, he said the premier asked the authorities concerned to build the chancery there as per the rules and regulations of Australia.
Turning to the third revision of the district-wise female computer training project with an additional cost of Tk31.82 crore, Mannan said the premier asked the authorities concerned to bring the project operations under revenue budget so that the computer training to the females could be given in a much wider scale and in an integrated way.
About the left embankment protection work of Padma River at various places under Louhajang and Tongibari upazilas in Munshiganj with Tk446.12 crore, Mannan said the prime minister asked the authorities concerned so that the sand quarries could not mushroom here and there as such sand quarries often cause harm to embankments and riverbank structures.
The prime minister also suggested to the authorities concerned to keep the provision of milk processing unit at the BSCIC Food Processing Industrial Estate in Thakurgaon to be implemented with a cost of Tk98.61 crore.
While giving approval to the first revision of reconstruction and rehabilitation of iron bridges in the southern part of the country with an additional cost of Tk498.30 crore, the premier asked the authorities concerned including the Local Government Division and the Ministry of Shipping so that the bridges are built in proper height and thus there is no hindrance in river vessel movement including goods-laden river vessels.
Planning Commission Member Nasima Begum said a full-fledged paediatric cardiology and surgery unit will be set up at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) with Tk72.09 crore.
She said that the prime minister has lauded the initiative and she wants such full-fledged units to expand further.
Meanwhile, State Minister Shamsul Alam at the briefing also said that his task would be to bring dynamism in the project implementation process since the implementation is a very important issue.
He also informed that the prime minister also put emphasis on producing herbal medicines in the country.
The other projects approved in the meeting are upgrading district highways with due standard and width, Mymensingh Zone, first revision with an additional cost of Tk111.58 crore, modernization and expansion of services and research facilities of Institute of Tissue Banking and Biomaterial Research with Tk173.80 crore.