Budget focuses on road construction, farm-driven growth

Kathmandu, September 19:

The government has allocated Rs 13.91 billion for the construction/maintenance of road networks, a whopping 77.14 per cent hike compared to last year’s budget for the sector.

Kishore Jha, an infrastructure expert, said budget allocation for the infrastructure sector was in tune with the three-year interim plan, which had allocated 57 per cent of the budget to this sector.

In his budget speech, the Finance Minister promised to reconstruct physical infrastructure destroyed during the armed conflict.

According to an estimate, Rs 4.5 billion will be required to rebuild public buildings, bridges, communication tower and airports damaged during the conflict period.

The budget speech pledges to build roads, skill-oriented programmes in 20 districts and commission drinking water projects in 38 districts under the Rural Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Sector Development Programme.

Compared to last year, budget for the farm sector was increased by 69.30 per cent. With the budget outlay of Rs 5.91 billion, the government aims to fuel economic growth. In his budget speech, the Finance Minister said economic development can be accelerated by modernising and commercialising the farm sector.

Allocating Rs 5.8 billion, the government has increased budget for the irrigation sector by 42.60 compared to last year.

The government has pledged to subsidise the import of chemical fertilisers. It plans to make seeds and fertilisers available.

The Agriculture Development Bank will continue to give subsidy to Tea, Cardamom and Coffee farmers.

Dr Birendra Bir Basnyat, an agricultural specialist, termed the increase in farm budget important. He praised the government for its commitment to build irrigation infrastructure.

“The budget has missed out seeding programmes, which plays a crucial role in agriculture development,” said Dr Basnyat, adding that more than 50 per cent seeds are imported illegally from India and are of low quality.

With a promise of Rs 15.58 billion for the health sector, the government aims to make new Nepal a healthy Nepal. Compared to last year’s budget, the outlay this year went up by 53.92 per cent.

By well-equipping primary and basic health facilities, the government aims to make health services accessible.

It aims to distribute medicines for free through district hospitals.

The budget also aims to reduce maternal mortality rate by launching maternal health services in 100 health posts. The budget aims to launch 24-hour operation facility, including free maternity services, in eight rural districts.

A national-level programme will be launched for the treatment of women suffering from uterine prolapse.

The Martyr Gangalal Heart Centre will run a free service to prevent heart diseases among children aged below 15 years and people aged above 75 years. A free dialysis service will be launched in National Kidney Centre for ethnic citizens in need and to seniors above 75 years of age.

However, president of the Nepal Medical Association Dr Chop Lal Bhusal said the budget was highly ambitious.

The NMA president termed the plan to distribute medicines through district hospitals impractical.

Dr Kedar Narshing KC, general secretary of the NMA, questioned, “How will the government provide round-the-clock maternal services at a time when the health sector has been reeling under shortage of manpower?”

For the education sector, the government has allocated Rs 38.98 billion.

The government aims to eradicate illiteracy within two years by mobilising 35,000 local volunteers in each ward of each village development committee.

The government aims give continuity to ongoing technical education programmes.

It aims to educate youths, who aborted studies due to the conflict, in open schools and open universities.

Dr Tirtha Khaniya, professor of Education faculty at Tribhuvan University, lauded the budget increment in the education sector. “Aim to reduce illiteracy is not new,” said Dr Khaniya.

He added the programmes would have been more effective if the budget had plans to find out why 11 per cent of children in the country do not attend the schools.