EDITORIAL: Act with urgency

Unless the Department of Transport Management acts with a sense of urgency, we are likely to see such hiccups every now and then

The government has decided to stop the printing of smart driving licences after the company responsible for this failed to meet the standard set. This means that the 450,000 applicants waiting in the queue will not get their licences any time soon. In October last year, a private firm – Malika Incorporated – had been allowed to print the smart driving licences. But an inspection following a number of complaints by the licence seekers showed that the cards were of a very poor quality. There were complaints, especially about the electronic chip, which got easily dislodged from the card. Secondly the thermal printing used by Malika Incorporated, instead of laser printing, caused the letters printed on the card to erode over a period of time.

The inability of the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) to even manage a small thing as a smart driving licence raises a lot of questions. Why did it award the tender for printing smart licences to a company whose work has turned out to be shoddy? Who allowed the company to go for thermal printing of the licences instead of laser printing? With stories of corruption in the government offices circulating in the media almost on a daily basis, such lapses on the part of the DoTM makes it an easy target of hearsay and people’s frustrations. Worldwide, countries print tens of millions of such smart driving licences, and they do not seem to have any problem. Why is it that Nepal faces problems with even small things that it takes up? Now that the deal with Malika has been scrapped, what next? The DoTM has decided to print the smart licences with its own resources. But it is unable to do so in sufficient numbers because of the low capacity of its printing machine. To meet the rising demand for licences, the DoTM would need to print about 4,000 of them every day, but it cannot push the figure beyond 2,500 at the most.

The DoTM must act quickly so that people do not have to wait in the queue for months, some already having waited for their turn for more than a year. While waiting for their smart cards, drivers are having to do with a licence fee receipt, which is not only inconvenient but can also be easily torn. With each passing day, there will be more and more applicants for a licence as a vehicle, especially a motorbike, has become common with many households, both in the urban and rural areas. The DoTM should have a fair idea by now as to the number of licences that will need to be printed over a period of time. So based on this calculation and funds available, it can plan for the future. The Public Procurement Act, which makes it mandatory to give the contract to the lowest bidder, has proved to be faulty. So it needs to be amended if quality service is to be ensured. It would be best if the DoTM decided to print the cards on its own by enhancing the capacity of its printing machines. This would not only save time but also stop money from flowing out. The business as usual approach will not do the DoTM any good. Its embossed number plate initiative is also stuck mid-way and has drawn a lot of flak already. Unless the DoTM acts with a sense of urgency, we are likely to see more of such hiccups every now and then.

Respite in SEZ

When the then Parliament endorsed the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act in 2016, the industries set up there were required to export 75 per cent of their products right from the time of starting production. Three years down the road, the government has now decided to slash it down to 60 per cent. It has also allowed the industries to sell 100 per cent of their goods in the domestic market in the first year of their production. A bill to amend the Act has been tabled at the federal Parliament to ease the problems faced by the export-oriented industries.

The industries set up in the SEZ enjoy a number of facilities, including exemption from customs duty and VAT, so that they can boost exports to third countries. The mandatory provision of exporting 75 per cent of goods is being reduced to 60 per cent considering the investors’ inability to export their goods. The amendment bill has also proposed reducing the rental charge from the previous Rs 150 per square metre to Rs 20 per square metre a month. The investors must be able to reap benefit from the slackened provision. They also need to explore international markets for their goods.