The govt’s target of achieving double digit growth within four years is not viable unless it improves the spending capacity

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari presented the government’s policies and programmes at the joint session of the Federal Parliament on Friday, aiming at achieving a double digit growth within the next four years. The policy outlines, based on which the fiscal budget is prepared, has stressed on rigorous monitoring, capital formation, project development and execution and investment facilitation in a bid to sustain the recent economic growth. The President said the first year of the government has laid foundation for the growth in the coming years as it has formulated required laws to institutionalise the federal structure. The policy outlines have emphasised on giving high priority to complete the national pride projects. An appropriate monitoring mechanism would be put in place to complete these projects on time and action would be taken against the contractors for failing to complete them within the deadline.

The legal and structural bottlenecks, including the Public Procurement Act, will also be changed so that the government would be able to carry out quality development work. Some national pride projects such as hydropower plants would be developed by raising necessary capital from the public itself. The policy outlines have envisaged setting up industrial estates in all provinces and special economic zones with a view to giving a boost for export.

Although the government has a plan of achieving double digit economic growth, it is not possible without enhancing the spending capacity. With just two months remaining to come to an end of the current fiscal, the government has been able to spend merely 38.05 per cent (Rs 119 billion) of the total capital expenditure. How can the government achieve the goal of a double digit growth within four years when its capital expenditure is so poor? It is also not possible to achieve the target given the weak economic base in the agricultural and industrial sectors and, country’s heavy dependence on import. The government should also strengthen the sub-national governments by enacting the required laws.

The government has also hinted at increasing the amount on social security allowances. While it is a welcome move of the government to support the vulnerable section of society, we also must not forget the fact that it will create an additional financial burden on the national treasury. The social security allowance can be increased only after the country achieves tangible and sustainable economic growth. Instead of doling out cash to the vulnerable section of society, it would be better to offer them services as per their needs, such as footing the medical bills in public hospitals.

A stable and powerful government should not be carried away by the populist agenda. Its policies and programmes must be based on ground reality.

Although debates on the policy outlines have just begun in both Houses of Parliament, lawmakers from both the isles and the people in social media have also flayed the President for using the phrase “my government” in the policy speech, prepared by the government. The President used the phrase used by the then kings, who used to exercise the country’s sovereignty. People want to see the President act as a commoner, not as a monarch. This phrase must be changed in line with the changed political context.

Children’s safety

What were some two dozen teenagers below 18 years of age, mostly girls, doing in Thamel, the tourist hub of Kathmandu, till 3 in the morning of Saturday? The police must be commended for arresting them – almost all of them students studying in various schools and colleges of Kathmandu - and handing them over to their guardians. It is dangerous for youngsters to be roaming the streets of Thamel, or any place in Kathmandu, so late at night, as chances of them being victims of crime is high.

The police have been picking up minors from Thamel during night hours in a bid to discourage them from revelling in late night parties. However, the safety of the children should be the concern of the guardians. When the children were not home till midnight, the parents should have alerted the police.

The eateries and entertainment clubs must also discourage teenagers from staying till late. And schools and colleges must keep tab of what their students are doing. Their responsibilities are not over with the end of classes for the day. Only when all the stakeholders chip in can we protect our children from being victims or engaging in possible criminal activities.