April 24, 2024, 10:06 am

No end of foreign visit with govt money

  • Update Time : Wednesday, September 14, 2022
  • 235 Time View
Symbolic photo

Ministry of Agriculture

Swarnomoyee Mostafa Oishy:

Though, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina own-self directs to take strict stance against unnecessary foreign tours with the government money in the name of so-called trainings or skill development, foreign visit of the government officials under the agriculture ministry is not ending anyway.

Agriculture officials visit Netherlands in the name of fair that raises various questions. Besides, 30 officials have to go abroad to learn mushroom cultivation. The proposed expenditure is Tk 1.20 crore. With this, Tk 19.3 crore will be spent for training inside the country.

The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has made such a proposal in the project entitled ‘Nutrition development and poverty reduction through expansion of mushroom cultivation’. Planning Commission has reviewed the project proposal and sent it to ECNEC for approval.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been embroiled in controversy over its participation in an international horticulture expo. Over a hundred officials of the ministry are performing duties in the expo being held in the Almere city of the Netherlands.

The government is currently on a hard line to save dollars and maintain reserves. At such a critical moment, the question has been raised about the rationality of spending money behind the Expo, which went up to the high court.

Although, the process of participating in this fair started a year ago, the fair titled ‘Florida Expo-2022’ started on 13th April and it will end on October 9. This is the first participation of Bangladesh’s Agriculture Ministry in any international horticulture fair. Almost a hundred officials of the ministry and its subordinate offices have already visited the Netherlands to participate in this event. Not end here, many more officials are waiting in the line to visit the fair.

According to sources, Bangladesh has participated in this expensive expo with the interest of some enthusiastic officials. However, some ministry officials were opposed.

There are complaints that, the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and its subordinate departments are performing their duties in the Expo without any plan. They return to the country after performing their duties for every ten days. They do not stay in the pavilion most of the time while on duty. Among the visitors from different parts of the world who come for information are returning empty handed. There are also no special publications about Bangladeshi products and institutions. Global expos are organized mainly for business networking. But there is nothing in the Bangladesh pavilion that allows visitors to interact with the country’s businessmen. Most of the private sector companies that have been invited to the Expo are strangers. The main objective of this expo is to expand the use of jute. But the visitors did not find any famous company dealing with jute products of Bangladesh at the expo. This information was known by talking to some officials and visitors who participated in the expo.

An official seeking anonymity told that, the products of 4/5 companies were seen in the pavilion. However, the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Abdur Razzak held a press conference on April 28 last and claimed that about 20 institutions and organizations are participating in the fair. Agricultural researchers and students of agricultural universities are working in the pavilions of other countries. No researcher or official of research institution of Bangladesh could be found there. Many of the officers assigned to the pavilions do not have technical knowledge of agriculture. They are engaged in administrative work in the ministry.

Due to the change of officials every 10 days, the cost of the government is increasing as well as there is a disruption in the provision of information at the Expo, he added.

A reliable source in the ministry said, a list of about 200 persons was initially sent to the Prime Minister in summary form for sending to the expo. But later, that list was shortened. There are no criteria for determining who are eligible in this list. As a result, after sending a gardener to the Expo, there was a problem because he did not have a work permit. Most of the private sector entrepreneurs, who have participated in the expo have only visited the pavilions and roamed outside. They did not do the main work of the expo to establish contact with foreign institutions.

Another official on condition of anonymity complained that, there is no provision for selling products in the pavilion. The products displayed at the expo are of very poor quality. No leaflets, flyers or brochures of Bangladeshi products have been kept. The booklets kept are of very poor quality. Government Order (GO) was issued on the occasion of the Expo in the name of more than a hundred officials on the Ministry’s website. According to GO, some officials went to the expo in the name of educational tours.

Besides, many officials have issued GOs for visiting different schemes. Although, GOs were scheduled to visit the Netherlands, they have kept the fact of participating in the expo a secret. GO has been issued in the name of husband or wife of an officer on the condition of going to the expo at own expense.

However, after May 12, the name of the husband or wife of any official was not found in the GO over the foreign trip at government expense. In this case, many people have visited the expo as private entrepreneurs.

A Personal Officer (PO) of the Agriculture Minister also visited the expo in the process.

When this correspondent tried to contact over cell phone with Benjir Alam, Director General of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, who is in charge of organizing the expo, hung up the phone saying he was busy.

Mehdi Masud, Director of the Directorate’s ‘Nutrition Development through Year-round Fruit Production’ project and a member of the Expo organizing committee said that, “Those, who underestimate such a big event do not want the development of future generations. No results will come from this expo in one day or one year. The results will be available in the next 20 years. There is no temporary business objective here. We participated in this event to show that Bangladesh is not a poor country. Every day about 700 to 1200 visitors come to see the Bangladesh Pavilion.”

“We are not only self-sufficient in the production of fruits and vegetables, but we want to tell the world that we are exporting by meeting our own needs. Visitors praise Bangladesh in the comment book kept in the pavilion. It is important to participate in such events to highlight Bangladesh to the world,” he said.

When asked about the selection of officers, he said that due to the transparent selection process, he was forced to cancel the GO of 32 officers of his project. He also declined to say more about it.


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