Budget to focus on health, infra, education and production

Kathmandu, April 30

With the entire world and Nepal too grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed thousands of lives and severely hit the global economy, National Planning Commission — the apex planning body of the country — has said that the budget for next fiscal year 2020-21 will primarily focus on health, education, production and infrastructure development.

Ram Kumar Phuyal, a member of the commission, said they are preparing the budget with major emphasis on enhancing the healthcare system as the pandemic revealed that the country has a lot to do on this front. “Hence, the budget will focus on issues that surfaced during this lockdown and will try to address them,” he stated.

“Besides the healthcare system, the upcoming budget will also prioritise education system, mass production and distribution system, and infrastructure development where a majority of the workers are engaged,” said Phuyal.

Speaking during the virtual programme organised by the Labour and Employment Journalist Group today, Phuyal said that NPC is preparing sector-wise employment plan for labourers affected by COVID-19.

“The government has estimated that around 1.5 million to two million migrant workers will return home once the travel bans are lifted as the global economy has slowed down due to the impact of the coronavirus and there will be massive lay-offs,” he informed, adding, “So, we are targeting to introduce new programmes for those people and generate employment for around 500,000 workers annually.”

“Currently, we are holding discussions on how to manage and provide jobs to the returnee migrants and the domestic labour force in the coming year,” Phuyal mentioned. “In the first phase, the government will work on increasing domestic economic activities in a massive scale.”

Chandra Prasad Dhakal, vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said due to the coronavirus small and medium enterprises and tourism-related businesses are all shut down. “So, the government must introduce programmes to address these sectors to make the country’s economy vibrant,” he added.

“The coronavirus will also directly hit foreign direct investment, donor funds and capital formation to run economic activities.

So, we have suggested the government to address these areas too,” said Dhakal.

“The inflow of remittance will also decrease and unemployment rate will surge, so it is the right time to transform the economy into a self-sustaining one with due emphasis on agriculture,” he said.

Moreover, Puskar Acharya, president of Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre, said the government must draft a labour-friendly budget and immediately respond to problems being faced by the workers. “Almost 76 per cent of the labourers are currently working in the informal sector and most of them are involved in the private sector.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 1, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.