EDITORIAL: Aid diverted

The donor agencies are focusing more attention on troubled African countries where the socio-economic condition is worse than that in Nepal

The Finance Ministry statistics show that foreign aid commitment from bilateral and multilateral agencies has fallen by 55.90 per cent in the first five months of the current fiscal. It is learnt that the donors have diverted their aid to other international issues like the refugee crisis in Europe and socially backward regions in Africa. Nepal had received a pledge of Rs. 93.37 billion from the development partners between mid-July and December as against Rs. 211.72 billion in the same period last year. The donor agencies were buoyant by the successful holding of the second Constituent Assembly election in 2013 followed by an elected government. But it looks like that the pledged amount of money to Nepal may fall next fiscal year because of the refugee crisis in Europe where a large number of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and troubled northern African countries are fleeing their countries. There is a clear indication that the funds pledged by the development partners may not reach Nepal due to crisis in other parts of the world.

It may be recalled that the Nepal had received a pledge of US$ 4.4 billion in aid for the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by the April 25 earthquake and its powerful aftershocks. But the government could not channelize the pledged funds as it delayed in formulating law related to the reconstruction authority through which the funds were to be utilized. Moreover, the donor agencies are focusing more attention on troubled African countries where the socio-economic condition is worse than that in Nepal. Officials at the Finance Ministry are not so hopeful of getting more financial pledge for the next fiscal as well. Despite the decade long insurgency Nepal had made substantive progress on the social sector, especially in education, ranking Nepal the 145th country in the world in terms of the UN Human Development Report.

One of the reasons behind diverting the pledged amount of money to other troubled regions is Nepal’s inability to utilise the capital funds in the constructive field. Nepal has always received flaks from the donor agencies that it delays in preparing the project design and procurement plans, problem in land acquisition, establishment of project management office, budget approval and its release. These are the major constraints that the donor agencies want corrections and improvement in the institutional capacity. A case in point is that out of the total pledged amount of US$4.4 billion, Nepal has only been able to reach loans and grants agreement to the tune of Rs. 79 billion only in the last five months. This shows how lethargic the Government of Nepal is. Had the government been serious and businesslike the international community would have come forward with more assistance and the earthquake victims would have rebuilt their damaged houses within a year as there was no crunch for funds. The World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest is a case in point. The World Bank has committed to provide Rs. 20.66 billion for the Earthquake Housing Reconstruction Project under this fund. It has remained unutilized. The government has to increase its spending capacity if it expects more aid from the development partners.

Traffic chaos

The vehicular traffic is chaotic in most of Kathmandu’s roads. There is insufficient space for the large number of vehicles plying in them. Only a few traffic lights are operating. There have been calls to replace them with new ones. It is felt that repairing them would be like pouring water in sand for it would become more expensive. Now the concerned agencies are looking at how to manage the capital’s traffic for which traffic lights would be used for effective traffic management. Dealing with the congestion is getting to be complicated at various busy road intersections. Although traffic lights were installed about fifty years ago, they are not being properly managed.

Now the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has identified where intelligent traffic systems would be installed. These are advanced means to manage traffic. We could do well to utilize the state-of-the-art technologies now available. Besides, the present human resources to manage the traffic are proving to be inadequate. Thus, these advanced systems which would be managing the traffic scientifically could provide means to assist the traffic police.