People-centred reforms sought at NDF meet

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 16:

Senior government officials, economists and foreign experts today opined that the reforms initiated by the government should be people-oriented to attain the desired results. Chief secretary Dr Bimal Prasad Koirala admitted that the reform initiatives, without being people-centred, will not bring expected results. Koirala was of the opinion that reforms should be able to change people’s lives, lifestyle and living standards.

Koirala urged all ‘concerned bodies’ to carry out vigorous institutional reforms. Governance is a major problem which needs to be effectively addressed, stressed Koirala and urged for de-concentration of public services with effective working manual. The government service is still centralised which has not benefited the wider section of the mass, Koirala agreed. At the first phase of reforms, the private sector could not avail the ‘competition and exit’ facility which has not sent a good message to the business community, felt Koirala. Presenting a paper on ‘The reform agenda: Overview of the past performance and proposals for the future’ , Bhanu Prasad Acharya, finance secretary at the ministry of finance said that the 2002 NDF meet was a turning point for Nepal where the government renewed its commitment to reduce poverty, improve planning, budgeting and expenditure management, improve accountability and transparency. At the same time, external partners agreed to support government efforts within the framework of government’s aid policy paper, said Acharya.

Reforms in various sectors such as public expenditure, tax reform, public enterprise reforms, facilitating private sector development, financial management and accountability have been done, said Acharya.

The finance secretary opined that the next phase of reforms would be a more difficult one than the first initiatives over the last couple of years as the on-going conflict and political strife dominate the current socio-economic environment in Nepal. He said that strong efforts should be made to forcefully implement the poverty reduction agenda, in order to reach the poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) goal of reducing poverty to 30 per cent by 2006-07.

While giving his concluding remarks, Acharya said that the continued conflict and political instability are likely to erode public confidence and undermine development implementation that will ultimately question Nepal’s ability to sustain development activities. At the same NDF pre-consultation meeting, Prof Bishwambher Pyakuryal, president of Nepal Economic Association (NEA) said if reforms are to see sufficient growth, the government should expedite partnership programme with rebels at the local levels as they are also fighting for an effective reform in development sector. Hafeez Rahman, country director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-Nepal also stressed on local level participation in development activities with capacity building programmes.