Kathmandu, April 13
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has principally agreed to extend a budget of around Rs 150 billion to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in the next fiscal year to roll out programmes and projects on post-earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation.
“The MoF had agreed to extend the fund during a recently held meeting,” NRA Under Secretary Bhisma Kumar Bhusal told The Himalayan Times. A senior MoF official also confirmed that a budget ceiling of around Rs 150 billion had been extended to the NRA.
The proposed budget for reconstruction and rehabilitation for the next fiscal is almost 65 per cent more than this fiscal year’s allocation.
The government had allocated Rs 91 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation in this fiscal year. However, a big chunk of the budget has not been utilised, largely because of delay in formation of the NRA and other procedural and administrative hurdles, such as failure to appoint required number of staff on time and non-cooperation expressed by some of the officials at the local level.
“We hope projects and programmes would be implemented at a rapid pace in the next fiscal year as we have framed almost all of the policies and guidelines required to execute various works,” Bhusal said.
The NRA has, so far, framed reconstruction and rehabilitation policy and a regulation on reconstruction. It has also simplified environmental impact assessment, land acquisition and public procurement processes by introducing different guidelines.
However, it is yet to finalise the most important document called Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF), a blueprint for reconstruction and rehabilitation for the next five years.
“We know the deadline is April 24 and we are doing all we can to prepare the summary report within that time,” Bhusal said.
Bhusal’s statement implies the NRA will only come up with a synopsis of the PDRF by April 24. This effectively means it will not be able to launch complete PDRF within the deadline.
Introduction of the PDRF is important because it will guide all works related to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the next five years. This document will also set milestones for different sectors, spell out funding needs and identify agencies that will have to roll out various projects and programmes in coordination with the NRA.
So, if this document is not introduced on time, reconstruction and rehabilitation works may move ahead in a haphazard manner, resulting in underutilisation of funds and shoddy works which will aggravate the problems of earthquake survivors.
“We know the importance of the document. We also know we are taking time to finalise it. But the PDRF has to be framed based on the principle of build back better, which means we will not only be restoring damaged structures to its original form but making them even better than before,” Bhusal said.
Framing reconstruction and rehabilitation plans is a challenging job. But at times the NRA also seems to be failing to properly implement plans it has designed.
For instance, the NRA has recently initiated the process of extending a grant of Rs 200,000 to each of the owners, whose house was destroyed by earthquakes of last April and May. Based on NRA’s instruction, local bodies have started signing agreements with households to extend first instalment of Rs 50,000.
The NRA had initiated this process from Dolakha district on March 13. However, it has not deposited the amount in bank accounts of earthquake survivors till date, although it says its first priority is to restore private houses so that people living in temporary shelters could go back to their houses.
“We know we are falling behind in this area. But the amount will be deposited in the next eight to 10 days,” Bhusal said.
This example is just a prelude to how things can go wrong if proper implementation plans are not framed. Repetition of such mistakes will slow down reconstruction and rehabilitation works, making the NRA unable to fully utilise allocated funds.
A version of this article appears in print on April 14, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.