EDITORIAL: Action counts

Ensuring a full and effective implementation of our budgets is necessary for translating our development priorities into reality

Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara unveiled the first federal budget of the country of Rs 1278.99 billion, half of the country’s GDP, for the fiscal year 2017-18 on Monday, setting the goal of 7.2 per cent economic growth.

The total budget outlay is 21 percent more than the size of the budget for the current year. The present budget has no new development projects and programmes, and runs along the lines of the ongoing budget. This is because a compromise formula was reached between the government and the opposition not to bring new projects and programmes which might be seen to influence the election.

This compromise also suited the caretaker status of the present coalition government. Third, there are  many projects and programmes already announced and not properly executed that resources need to be concentrated on completing them, rather than on unveiling major new development and other schemes requiring huge additional resources. Therefore, the present budget should not be judged in terms of its new projects and programmes.

As regards the recurrent expenditure, most of it is already fixed. The budget to hold the next two tiers of government – federal and provincial – is a new item. But the centre piece of the present budget is the direct federal grants set aside to be sent to the local levels. With much wider jurisdictions and many more new responsibilities and more powers, the local levels will require much more financial resources to back up their various development and welfare projects and programmes, apart from increased administrative costs.

In this context, many people feel that the resources set aside for the local levels may be less than they require. But the federal government deserves the benefit of the doubt because it is for the first time that such allocations are being made. With experience, decisions might be revised to address real needs.

With a high growth projection, the budget also sets the target of containing inflation within seven per cent. Indeed, the present inflation trends elsewhere, including India, whose inflation rate significantly affects the inflationary trend in Nepal, are on the lower side.

Because of several other factors -- domestic, natural and international -- the Rastra Bank’s monetary policy alone is not enough to contain the inflation according to domestic wishes. Increased unproductive expenditure, as reflected, for example, in the huge election costs, will also push up inflation. Development expenditure may be expected to be utilized more as a percentage of total outlay as the local levels will spend an important chunk of it. A large chunk of budget set aside for infrastructure is also a positive side of the budget.

Monitoring of how the budget is implemented, including the utilization of resources, has always been a problem area, along with the lack of accountability, as is shown in the ever-increasing amounts of unsettled government expenditures. Learning from mistakes has not been a strong point of our governments and political parties and leaders, as well as our bureaucrats.

Therein lies much of the problem we have inherited. Ensuring a full and effective implementation of our budgets is necessary for translating our development priorities into reality.

Dengue threat

A dengue case has been reported in the Kathmandu Valley Monday. Tests carried out in a laboratory confirmed that a 25-year old man was infected with this deadly virus. Usually dengue cases are reported post monsoon, but this dengue case was detected well before the monsoon.

Experts are of the view that the early detection of dengue should ring the alarm bell for if this disease is allowed to spread it could reach epidemic proportions. Around a dozen dengue cases had been reported in the capital last year.

The Kathmandu Valley also has a significant number of Aedes-aegypti and Aedes-albopicitus  mosquitoes responsible for the spread of the disease. These mosquitoes breed in clear water and bite humans during the day. The symptoms of dengue are mild to severe fever, severe headache, pain in the eyes and muscles, and rashes.

In order to avoid further infections of this virus it could help if we were able to prevent the breeding of these mosquitoes but this is a difficult task.