EDITORIAL: Begging mentality

The various knocks we have received and the poor state the country is in should make us realize our wrong ways and make the country stronger the hard way

The immediate task of the government is to ease the supply of petroleum products and other essential goods like medicines. The country has been facing great hardships because of the serious disruptions of imports for more than two-and-a-half months. Indeed, the government is seen to be looking for alternative supply lines, including the initiative to import petroleum products from China. But of late it has been drawing allegations from various quarters that it has not been proceeding on fast track to conclude the agreement with China, sorting out such issues as the waiver of Chinese internal taxes on those petro-products bound for Nepal as well as the transport arrangements for oil and gas. Two officials from the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) had recently visited Beijing to sort out various issues like pricing and quantity. But several days have elapsed even after that but so far there has not been any high political level visit to China necessary to sort out issues, such as waiver of China’s internal taxes.

Such a delay, for whatever reasons, has led some people to doubt the government’s seriousness about importing oil from China on a commercial basis. This is so because the present hardships demand that work on this should have been seen to be proceeding with the urgency of war time. This is not to say however that work on expanding cooperation and business with the northern neighbor is not moving forward. It is also true that the government has to be working almost from scratch. But any further delay cannot be excused on that count. Another important matter that relates to efforts to ease the oil supply is the old begging bowl mentality of our leaders, bureaucrats and the government. Nepal had been purchasing fuel at prevailing international prices for decades. Now after China gave us 1000 metric tons of petrol as a grant, we have requested it to give some more petrol as a grant. The latest request of grant Nepal has made is to Saudi Arabia for the supply of 20,000 kilolitres of petrol to be airlifted to Nepal.

But we, from our past habit, tend to apply for grant for almost everything possible, even for the dumps of garbage to be cleared away. This is wrong. Despite so much grant assistance that Nepal has received from various countries in so many areas, where is the country now? Its dependence on foreign assistance and supply, even for things on which it could have achieved self-sufficiency or reduced dependence on foreign sources considerably has grown alarmingly instead, not only in terms of aid but even in foreign trade, particularly imports, where we have achieved the opposite of diversification. As a result, we have become highly vulnerable to the whims or the various, including non-commercial, interests of our supplying countries. That is exactly what Nepal is facing now. For underdeveloped countries like Nepal, aid may not be totally avoided, but there need to be sincere efforts to reduce foreign aid. We should focus on strengthening business relations with others. The various knocks we have received and the poor state the country is in should make us realize our wrong ways and make the country stronger the hard way. If we do not start from now, then when will we?

Hydel projects stalled

Many hydropower projects under construction across the country have been facing acute shortage of fuels, raw materials and other logistic support due to the blockade. Reports from various hydropower projects suggest that they are especially facing shortage of fuel, cement and steel required for the civil works. Due to unavailability of these goods those projects which are on the final stage have suspended their works and the workers have returned home until further notification. Those projects have suffered huge financial loss and they will not be able to meet the deadline.

While addressing the nation, PM KP Sharma Oli had said that the power crisis will be ended within a year. The finance and energy ministers have also vowed to provide every support the power projects require. If the government is really sincere to address the woes of the power projects they should be provided with required amount of fuel so that they can continue with their works. The energy sector must get top priority to end the power crisis within a year or two. Actions speak louder than words.