EDITORIAL: Ambitious target

The government will be able to achieve the target of double digit economic growth provided it promotes the private sector

One day before his admission to the TU Teaching Hospital for his second kidney transplant, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday chaired the National Planning Commission (NPC) meeting, which endorsed the 15th five-year plan that has set an ambitious target of achieving near double digit economic growth in all sectors of the economy. The 15th periodic plan of the government has been passed based on the approach paper of the plan unveiled in March last year. The PM said implementation of the development plans envisioned in the periodic plan would contribute to boosting the country’s production base and generating employment. He also directed the government agencies to fully focus on implementing the provisions included in the periodic plan. The periodic plan includes 22 ongoing national pride projects, 18 new “transformative projects” and 177 high priority projects, to be jointly launched by the federal and provincial governments. Reduction of poverty, famine and creation of job opportunities are the prime goals of the plan.

Under the periodic plan, the government has set a target of reducing the current 18.7 per cent of relative poverty and 28.6 per cent of multi-dimensional poverty to less than 10 per cent. The plan has set a target of achieving a minimum average economic growth of 9.4 per cent per annum. However, economists have termed the target highly ambitious, which is not possible due to low production of the agriculture sector, especially low paddy production, and slackness in the tourism sector due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It has also set a target to raise the annual per capita income of people to US$ 1,595 from the existing US$ 1,047 within the next five years. The plan has also envisaged upgrading Nepal to a developing country from a least developed one within this year.

Even as the government has failed to complete the 22 national pride projects on time, it has proposed 18 more transformative projects, which, according to the NPC, will become game changers in achieving over 9 per cent economic growth and will also help generate job opportunities within the country. Apart from the national pride projects and the national priority projects, the transformative projects have envisaged, among others, investing money mainly in agriculture, irrigation, energy and transmission lines, roads, land management, health and vocational education, development of industrial infrastructure and urban development. The NPC has estimated that it would require around Rs 9.3 trillion to complete these projects within the next five years. The budget required to complete the transformative projects will be mobilised through public, private and cooperative sectors. At a time when there is no encouraging sign of foreign and domestic investment mainly in the productive sectors, the five-year plan, however, has proposed increasing the share of the private sector in the economic sector up to 61 per cent from the currently estimated 60.2 per cent. Economists are sceptical about achieving the said growth target unless there is an enabling environment for domestic and foreign investment.

Conserve Phewa

Pokhara’s landmark, the scenic Phewa Lake, has kept shrinking, from 10 square kilometres in 1961 to just 4.25 square kilometres in 2001, and the Supreme Court in its verdict in November last year had ordered the government to acquire all of the encroached land within a year. It had also ordered the demolition of all structures built within 65 metres of the lake’s banks, where resorts and restaurants have flourished in this tourist city of lakes. However, implementing the apex court orders has proved difficult due to the presence of multiple maps of the lake, which make delineating the lake’s vicinity a tough job.

Lake Phewa, with the Barahi Temple at the centre, is a major tourist attraction in Pokhara, and it is only a matter of time before it disappears altogether due to sedimentation, encroachment and hyacinth growth. As a party to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as a Waterfowl Habitat, the government has the obligation to protect the lake. And the government and the city authorities must fix its boundary by reclaiming the 86 hectares of land around the lake that had been converted into private property, as mentioned in the Lamicchane Commission report of 2012.