EDITORIAL: All eyes on FinMin

Ambitious plans from a govt set to govern for five years were but expected; it now depends on how Khatiwada does his maths

The government has outlined its priority areas through policies and programmes presented on Monday, setting sights on some highly ambitious goals, which it claims to be the starting point for road to prosperity. Many of the plans in the document presented by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in Parliament are about what the government wants to achieve “in the next five years”. Major emphasis has been laid on physical infrastructure — rail and road networks. Boosting production, employment generation, self-reliance and enhancing export competitiveness are other areas where policies and programmes has laid stress on. The government also aims to achieve close to double digit growth in the next fiscal and double digit growth within five years. Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada will present the budget for fiscal year 2018-19 on May 29 based on this framework.

The country has got a stable government for the first time in the last two decades, and the parties that have been voted to power – the two forces have now united to become one – during elections had vigorously campaigned on the “stability for prosperity” plank. With stability achieved, the government now has to deliver on its promise of prosperity. Hence, for this government, coming up with such ambitious plans was but expected. There, however, are some key issues that the government has to pay close attention to when it comes up with the budget next week. The budget for 2018-19 will be the first under the new federal structure that we have now in place following the elections of all levels – federal, provincial and local – under the new constitution.

In the changed context, the federal government’s kitty is certainly going to shrink. While it has to share value added tax and domestic excise with the provincial and local governments, there are four types of grants that have to be moved towards them, which will make money management even more difficult for Khatiwada. Though the policies and programmes has put most of the old projects on priority, there are some new projects, and some of them sound not only redundant but also populist. Madan Bhandari Highway is one, which the government plans to connect the inner Madhes from Jhapa to Dadeldhura. The utility of this road could come into question in light of the East-West Highway, Postal Highway and Mid-Hill Highway. Similarly, the government has announced to establish Madan Bhandari Science and Technology Academy. The government could do well if it strengthens the already existing Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. These aside, the government’s aim to complete international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara in one and three years, respectively, and double agriculture production in five years is a welcome step. Overall, the policies and programmes, though ambitious, has many a positive point. Khatiwada will do good if he focuses on completion of ongoing and national pride projects rather than introducing new long-term projects. Keeping import of items that hurt the economy in check and revitalising sick industries and promoting new businesses will certainly help in the country’s economy. The private sector too has shown optimism about the government plans. It now all depends on how Khatiwada does his fiscal maths.

Work out

Sedentary lifestyle, intake of junk food, stress and lack of regular physical exercise are the main reasons of high blood pressure which has affected youths also, mostly in urban areas where they hardly engage in works that require physical labour. Doctors say out of the total patients visiting hospitals, around 15 to 20 per cent belong to 20 to 40 years age group. Dr Sachin Dhungel, assistant professor of cardiology at Patan Academy of Health Sciences says this age group is suffering from hypertension.

Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, 2016 revealed that 17 per cent women and 23 per cent men aged 15 years and above had hypertension. Doctors say one can have high blood pressure even without any symptoms. Eating healthy food, staying physically fit, avoiding or managing stressful condition, giving up smoking and alcohol can help prevent hypertension. The guidelines issued by American Heart Association in 2017 defined hypertension as a condition where blood pressure is above 130/80. It is necessary to take medicine and do regular exercise to save other vital organs such as kidneys and heart.