KATHMANDU: Participants in the stakeholders' consultation meeting of Nepal Development Forum (NDF) here today slammed the government's target of achieving economic growth as set in the draft. The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has set an overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8.5 per cent for the Three-Year Interim Plan (TYIP) from 2009-10 to 2011-12.

"It is not convincing," said Dr Minendra Rijal, former member of National Planning Commission (NPC). "Industrialists are not secure and power crisis stretches to more that 16 hours. How can the target be achieved?" Representatives of the United Nations Development Program and World Bank also doubt that the target will be met.

The Maoist-led government has been preparing NDF strategy with the aim of building a base for double digit growth after the TYIP. Presenting a draft paper, National Planning Commission member Professor Dr Guna Nidhi Sharma said the draft aims to institutionalize peace and inclusive democracy and adopted a conflict-sensitive development process. "It will bring visible positive change," he said.

The draft aims to achieve an overall GDP growth of 8.5 per cent, with 5.6 per cent GDP growth in the agriculture sector and 9.8 pre cent growth in non-agriculture sector through expenditure of Rs 559.5 billion. Of the Rs 559.5 billion, Rs 299.8 billion will be covered by the government and remaining budget is proposed to be adjusted through external loan or donation and internal borrowings.

The government will modernize and commercialize the agriculture sector and enhance investment in industries to achieve the growth, Sharma added. "Nepal will purchase 500MW electricity from India within one-and-a-half years to revitalize the industrial sector," he said.

Poverty reduction is another target that the government aims to achieve. "The percentage of people below the poverty line will be brought down to 21.5 per cent in three years", said Sharma. According to NPC, the present poverty level is 24.8 per cent of the country's total population.

"The draft has not identified the real poor. How can it tackle the problem?" said panel commentator Durga Neupane. The UNDP and World Bank also urged the governmentn to be realistic in terms of data. "Planning needs more improvement with high quality data," a UNDP representative.

Most of the participants praised the participatory method of development presented in the draft, but they also asked the government to be more realistic. Different speakers agreed on one point: the strategy must be realistic in term of desired paradigm shift and good.