Nepal | October 23, 2020

Public transportation under low govt priority

Himalayan News Service
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Despite being one of the top affected sectors by the COVID-19 and the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the virus, the government has no plans on how to sustain the public transportation sector and help it revive. As a result, investment worth billions of rupees in the country’s transportation sector and livelihood of thousands of workers employed in the sector are at risk.

Public transportation service is at a complete halt since the government imposed the lockdown on March 24 and the halt in operation of public transportation services is unlikely to be lifted until the government lifts the lockdown. While the lockdown could be prolonged further along with cases of coronavirus rapidly increasing in Nepal, the public transportation sector is bound to remain shut indefinitely and the government has no plans to facilitate the sector and help it cope and sustain the current crisis.

In fact, it is due to this indifferent nature of the government towards public transportation sector that transporters have threatened to start a protest against the government. “While transport entrepreneurs have had no business since almost four months, banks and financial institutions (BFIs) are constantly pressurising transporters to deposit loans and interests.

Along with this, transport companies are facing a problem to sustain their workers,” said Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of the Federation of Nepali National Transport Entrepreneurs. “Transport entrepreneurs have been gradually started suffering from depression.”

As per statistics of the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), almost 1.5 million people are employed in domestic transportation industry.

Similarly, transport entrepreneurs claim that investment worth billions of rupees has been injected in the industry which is at risk today.

“More than 80 per cent of the investment in the sector is financed through BFIs. As public transportation service is completely halted, transport entrepreneurs are unable to repay loans and interest rate while BFIs are pressurising us,” added Sitaula.

A few days ago, cab operators had also staged a protest against the government for not resuming cab services and facilitating their businesses. Cab operators are preparing to stage a fresh protest in front of Singhadurbar soon.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport is in no mood to resume public transportation services any time soon. “Amid increasing coronavirus cases, resuming public transportation can pose further risk. Similarly, resuming public transportation service and providing entrepreneurs relief is a concern for the high-level COVID-19 control committee and the Ministry of Finance,” said a source at the transport ministry.

However, Finance Ministry officials have said that transport entrepreneurs should approach for different subsidised loan facilities announced by the government through the budget targeting all sectors affected by the COVID-19. “The government is also preparing sector specific loss assessment due to COVID-19. Other relief measures will be provided in the future as per necessity,” said Uttar Kumar Khatri, spokesperson for the Finance Ministry.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 7, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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