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Last Updated Sunday August 20 2017 07:50 AM IST

Kerala runs the risk of losing funds as World Bank team comes calling

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Kerala runs the risk of losing funds as World Bank team comes calling Kerala finance minister Dr. Thomas Isaac. Manorama

Kochi: At least six road-building projects in Kerala run the risk of losing World Bank funding due to the shoddy progress in work. A World Bank team will inspect the works under the Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP) in early May, following up on a warning to pull Rs 800 crore from its credit line.

Infrastructure specialist Bernard Aritua and team will monitor the progress of six projects from May 8 to 16. The high-level team will be accompanied by seven experts in the construction of roads and bridges. The team will assess the progress of the projects that are supposed to be completed by December 2018.

The World Bank has already canceled about Rs 220 crore it offered to the KSTP as the officials found that not even a quarter of the work has been completed even after passing 70 percent of the timeframe. The World Bank had originally offered Rs 1,404 crore as loans to fund infrastructure projects in the state.

The KSTP officials play down the visit as a routine inspection but the writings on the wall are serious this time. The World Bank has laid out a set of conditions to be fulfilled by April 30. World Bank India operations manager Hisham Abdo Kahin has written to the Kerala chief secretary to express the organization’s displeasure over the slow pace of work.

Abdo Kahin’s letter dated April 3 warned the state government to be prepared to lose the credit line if it fails to buck up and give a satisfying explanation before the end of the month. The government has not even given a clear response to the letter.

KSTP officials said the World Bank has only taken back the part of the credit line which was not used. They said they had to abandon work on 44 kilometers of stretch of road between Perinthalmanna and Perumbilavu.

As much as Rs 195 crore has been earmarked for the project, 56 percent of which to be drawn from the credit line. The officials said they had spent a major part of this amount on the repair of the road and the rest of the funds would be used to conduct a feasibility study for a coastal highway and the construction of the corridor between Adoor and Kazhakkoottam.

The Public Works Department has to convince the World Bank of its plans before the end of this month. Still the department has no definite answer on when can it finish work on the other projects.

The officials want to promise the World Bank that the work on the projects would be completed by December 2018 but would have a hard time convincing the experts when they visit the construction sites. Work on most stretches has not even reached the halfway mark.

Almost 20 percent of work is still to be completed on the Kasaragod-Kanhangad and the Pilathara-Pappinissery stretches even after the deadline was extended six times. On the Punalur-Ponkunnam stretch, the government is yet to complete the tender process.

The work in the Moovattupuzha area will take at least a year to complete. The KSTP officials have an uphill task to convince the World Bank officials and to keep the projects on track.

The state is at the risk of losing funding from aid agencies such as the World Bank. The Asian Development Bank had already decided not to lend money for infrastructure works in Kerala. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is also mulling an exit from Kerala. The agency has decided not to get involved in any new projects.

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