BNP Chairperson Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and widow of former President General Ziaur Rahman has announced 37 points vision 2030 of her party in a recent press meet in Dhaka. This write will make an attempt to review, analyze and comment on the salient aspects of the vision. Before going into sector wise discussion it may be useful to briefly remind the readers about the origin, background of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), its emergence, composition, past proven track record as the ruling party for a considerable duration of about two decades of Bangladesh.
BNP is conglomerate political parties formed by Military General Ziaur Raman who turned into a politician after assuming state power through promulgation of Martial Law following the unfortunate assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 19715. There was an interim government of a section of misguided army officers and self-proclaimed killer of the father of the nation under a traitor Khondokar Mustaq Ahmed.
Taking the advantage of coup and counter-coup General Zia assumed state power and while in uniform formed Jagodol first drawing opportunist politicians from right, left and even from anti-liberation forces. He let the under-trial war criminals released, restored the citizenship of Jamat Chief Golam Azam and allowed all political parties which were banned from politics for anti-liberation activities carrying on political activities. Under the cover of indemnity act, the trial of self-confessed killers of midnight of August 15, 1975 (Bangabandhu and family) and November 3, 1975 at Dhaka Central Jail (four main leaders of liberation war) were barricaded. Zia also awarded self-confessed killers with prized diplomatic posting in foreign mission. With the mockery of yes –no votes, he justified his actions and using government agencies while still in uniform formed BNP. To consolidated his power, he managed hanging of many army officers mostly liberation war heroes. When we discuss the vision of his party BNP we must not forget the past of BNP.
General Zia was also unfortunately killed in another coup and following many dramas another military ruler Lt General HM Ershad through military democracy ruled the country till the 1990s. Ershad’s autocratic regime fell to people’s movement in 1990. Since then BNP-led by Zia’s Widow Khaleda and Bangabandhu daughter Sheikh Hasina led alliances ruled the country in turns.BNP-led alliance was there from 1991 -1996, Awami League Government was in state power from 1996-2001, BNP again ruled from 2002-2006. BNP failures led to another army influenced interim government from 2006-2008. From 2009 till now Awami league led alliance government is running the state over two consecutive terms.
The announcement of Vision 2030 by BNP is a positive indication that they are actively preparing for participating in the upcoming general election. With Awami Legaue declared Visions 2021 and 2041 already under advanced implementation process BNP Vision gives an opportunity for citizen to compare apple to apple. People have experienced the rule of two alliance led by two major political parties Awami League and BNP since 1990 and are definitely in a position judging the success and failures of two regimes.
This writer is energy professional. From over 28 years active involvement in Bangladesh energy sector from 2007 to 2008 and later an energy journalist (contributing editor of Energy & Power Magazine) it is appropriate to start the review of Vision 2030 with Energy & Power sectors segment
Energy & Power Vision 2030
BNP Vision 173:
"For achieving desired double digit GDP growth rate initiative would be taken for achieving 30,000 MW power generation capacity by 2030.For this the best utilization of all available local primary fuel use would be ensured and if required infrastructure for regional cooperation would be set up."
Reality: The present government in accordance with power sector Vision 2021 is now on advanced stage for reaching generation capacity of 24,000 MW, the capacity in 2030 would be 40,000 MW and 2041 would be 60,000 MW. The government has adopted fuel diversification plan . 72% of the population have already access to electricity and by 2021 all citizens of Bangladesh would have access to power.
The government has adopted fuel diversification plan and is currently implementing it. The capacity sect for 2040 would be achieved using 35% coal, 35% LNG & Gas and 30% through power import, Nuclear and Renewable sources. Several imported coal-based power generation plants including coal import infrastructures are at different stage of implementation. Initiatives have advanced for LNG import. The government has strengthened BAPEX and has adopted a project for drilling 108 wells including 53 exploration wells in the onshore areas over the next 5 years. Some IOCs are working in the offshore. The initiative is also at an advanced stage for further exploration of domestic coal maintaining environmental safeguards. The government has a target of generating 10% of the targeted 24,000 MW power by 2021 from renewable.
What BNP Regime of The Past Did?
Bangabandhu led government from December 1971 till August 1975 set the base of a very dynamic energy & power sector. Petrobangla, BMDC, BPDB were created. 5 major discovered gas fields Titas, Bakhrabad, Habiganj, Rashidpur and Koillashtilla. These gas fields even today account for 40% of total gas supply Bangabandhu government had the courage and capacity entering the offshore exploration, 6 leading IOCs were engaged for exploration of oil in 8 blocks. Petrobangla Chairman Dr Habibur Rahman was concurrently the Secretary of Energy & Power Ministry as well as advisor of Prime Minister.
General Zia led BNP government degraded Petrobangla and retired army officers started finding a position there. Quality petroleum engineers and other technocrats started leaving the sector. Oil companies left Bangladesh one by one. Off course during this period, Bakhrabad Gas Systems Limited BGSL was launched as a vertically integrated gas company for the entire South Eastern Region of Bangladesh and Jalalabad Gas Transmission and Distribution company was created.
During the BNP tenure of 1991-1996 gas fields like Bakhrabad and Feni had serious gas production issues. For over production ignoring gas experts’ opinion major depletion of the fields caused gas famine in the greater Chittagong area. Infamous SAIPEM scam was created in the construction of North-South Gas transmission pipeline. The government failed to expeditiously engage a contractor for the construction of Ashuganj Bakhrabad Gas transmission pipeline for alleged favoring an energy syndicate. Finally for World Bank threat of withdrawing funding right contract was awarded. But by that time major damage was done in 1996 Chittagong region suffered from 6-8 hours power load shedding.
Following the exit of Scimitar another dubious company Occidental was awarded PSC for exploration at prized blocks 12,13 & 14 in the greater Sylhet region and a Petrobangla owned gas field Jalalabad was illegally included in the contract. BNP regime left behind a crisis-prone gas and energy sector.
Bangladesh Awami League-led government from 1996-2001 undertook and implemented several milestone projects. The very important Ashuganj –Bakhrabad Gas transmission pipeline was constructed in record time restoring gas supply to Chittagong region for power, fertilizer and other industries. Shangu offshore gas field, Jalalabad gas Field, Salda , Meghna Gas fields were developed and connected to national gas grid. Gas system was extended across the Bangabandhu Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge.
Bibiyana Gas and Moulavi Bazar Gas fields were discovered. The government could resist the pressure of UNOCOL and US government for exporting gas to India from Bibiyana.
In power sector government successfully implemented IPP, SPP policies. Contracts were signed with AES for Meghnaghat and Haripur large gas based power plants. Several off grid SPPs and some barge mounted power plants were set up. Awami League-led government in 2001 left behind a very dynamic gas and energy sector.
BNP-Jamat Government from 2002-2006 coming to power immediately suspended and scrapped almost all new power plant construction contracts, Over the entire tenure excepting complaining the left over works of Meghnagaht power plant and a corruption-ridden Tongi Power plant they failed at add a single MW of new plant. Corruption became rampant in the power and energy sector. A huge crisis was created in power sector and gas sector. Industrial operation almost came to standstill. By the time Bangladesh Awami League led Government of alliance returned to power in 2009 power and energy sector was in deep crisis. Power generation dipped to 3500-3800 MW against a demand of 5500 MW. Gas production was merely 1700 MMCFD against a demand of 2200MMCFD. In 8 years since then, average power generation has reached over 8500 MW and Gas Production capacity reached 2750MMCFD.
BNP Vision 174:
"With a view to overcoming prevailing energy crisis, short, medium and long term plans would be adopted through formulating a comprehensive national energy policy for achieving long term sustainable energy security. Fuel diversity plan would be adopted for generating low cost power . Power will be supplied at reasonable and affordable price. Energy efficiency would be ensured. Incentives would be given for energy efficient appliances use."
Reality: All above are already in existence and present government has already made commendable progress about all mentioned above. BNP could have done praiseworthy job if they accepted responsibility of prevailing power and energy crisis for inability of doing works in their 2002-2006 tenure. Awami League Government had PSMP 2010 which had short, medium and long term vision, fuel diversity plan. BERC and SREDA are working on energy conservation and efficiency.
BNP Vision 175:
"Priority Initiative would be taken for modernizing replacing ageing fuel inefficient power plants. For resolving power crisis alongside small, medium, large environment friendly power plants, initiatives would be taken for renewable power generation from solar, wind geo thermal, ocean waves, bio gas and energy from wastes."
Reality: All these initiatives are already in advanced stage . This vision is word for word borrowed from the present government vision. Alongside small, medium and large traditional fuel based power plants government under repowering program is replacing fuel inefficient power plants with modern combined cycled power plants, Bangladesh has already become world leader in Solar Home System, Wind mapping is at advanced stage, Roof top solar and solar irrigation pump system are under implementation.
BNP Vision 176:
"The oil price would be adjusted keeping in view with global price. Fuel diversity would be adopted for power generation for economy of generation. 50 lakh ton capacity crude oil refinery would be set up at appropriate location."
Government provided huge subsidy to power and energy sector when crude oil price soared to all time high level. After remaining at low level it has again started upward trend. But anyway this vision of BNP would be welcome. It will be also welcome if they can set up a new refinery.
BNP Vision 177:
"Effective measures would be taken for expediting exploration of gas , oil and other mineral resources onshore and offshore."
Reality; From 1991-1996 and 2002-2006 terms of BNP regime exploration activities remained less than bare minimum . BNP created Phulbari episode and exploration and development of a large coal mine remains in suspended animation since then. BNP could take no initiative in 1991-1996 or 2002-2006 to resolve maritime boundary dispute . Occidental and NIKO lopsided deals were concluded during their time. They could not even honour their pledge for gas export to India.
BNP Vision 178:
"Initiative would be taken for regional water treaty and generation of low cost hydropower generation , setting up regional power grid connectivity and regional energy security."
Reality: Past records evidence that BNP never could achieve any success in regional water treaty. A great proposal for a tri nation gas pipeline construction from Myanmar to India across Bangladesh with provision for Bangladesh importing gas from Myanmar went flat for lack of far sight of BNP regime. Present government has already started importing 650 MW power from India. Plans for importing another 6500 MW power from regional countries are advancing.
BNP Vision 179
"Limitless corruption has been carried out in non-transparent quick rental power generation and indemnity has been given illegally. Consequently, power tariff has been increased few times causing suffering of the people.BNP would create transparency in power purchase and sales. Electricity and Energy Supply Increase Act 2010 would be reviwed and amended."
Reality: Contingency and quick rental plant initiative was taken during last tenure of BNP regime and some contracts were signed during interim government. Now about 28% of total power is generated from such plants These were essential requirement to confront the mess created by failure and corruption of BNP Jamat regime in the power and energy sector. The BNP allegations need to be authenticated.
BNP Vision 180:
"Provision for regular survey in the ocean would be created for mapping non-renewable petroleum resources, Reliable policy and strategy would be adopted for exploration and exploitation of resources mapped through surveys."
Reality: BNP could appreciate present government achievements of resolving long standing maritime boundary disputes with India and Myanmar. Present government vision is not different than what BNP declared.
BNP Vision 181:
"Safe generation of Nuclear power and its peaceful use would be ensured. The nuclear power plant project would be reviewed."
Rooppur Power Plant is now at advanced stage. These days it is impossible to set up any new nuclear power plant bypassing very stringent IAEA guidelines. VVER 1200 plants under construction at Rooppur has no scope for review.
Having discussed above we welcome announcement of BNP vision. They had no vision in anything over their past regimes. During General Zia Regime the country was backpedalled from the spirits of the liberation war. During 1991-1996 BNP failed to consolidate the gains from success of restoration to democracy program. During 2002-2006 BNP Jamat made the country champions of corruption and safe haven of corruption. At least the declaration of vision would let people view their intentions. But as a party BNP has no capacity of implementing any of the sweet sounding energy sector visions.
Written By Saleque Sufi, an expert in energy sector infrastructure development, planning, construction management and operation in Central and South Asia and Australia, also served as an adviser to the petroleum ministry of Afghanistan.