EDITORIAL: Between jobs

Govt scheme for the unemployed can create social safety net for them, but focus should continue on creating more jobs

In line with the constitutional provision of right to employment, the government has proposed up to 120 days’ unemployment allowance per year to those who are jobless. Article 33 (1) of the Constitution under “Right to employment” says: “Every citizen shall have the right to employment.” The unemployment scheme, which is still in its nascent stage, is part of the Prime Minister Employment Programme introduced through this fiscal budget in May. The government through its fiscal budget presented in May has allocated Rs 3.1 billion for this fiscal to implement the programme. The government, however, is yet to propose the amount for the scheme, as it plans to ascertain the allowance based on resources that can be made available for this purpose. The scheme basically has three stages and unemployment allowance lies at the bottom, with the first two being – providing money to unemployed to help them find self-employment and finding jobs for the unemployed. This hence looks somewhat like a well thought-out plan.

According to a World Bank report published on April, 32 per cent of Nepal’s working-age population – people aged 15 to 64 – are either unemployed or voluntarily inactive. This though is the lowest in South Asia, job creation is the need of the hour. The working-age population in Nepal increases by 35,000 people and the country must create 240,000 jobs a year to maintain the employment rate, says the report. It’s a sad reality that around 1,500 youths leave the country, mainly to the Gulf states and Malaysia, every day in search of jobs. As the country expects to get on the path of economic recovery – the government has set an economic growth target of 7.9 per cent – more jobs need to be created so as to absorb the growing labour force. So the government scheme – since it at least provides some sort of social safety net – may also help in retaining the youths in the country, who then ultimately can be put into available jobs Nepal.

This, however, is not the first time such plans have been introduced. In the past also various governments had announced similar kinds of schemes under different names. But they were largely unimplemented for various reasons ranging from lack of commitment from the government to political instability. The danger of such programmes, our experience says, usually turn out to be a tool to appease cadres of the ruling party or those who are close to power centres. This tendency ultimately defeats the whole purpose. This has to be checked through some strong monitoring mechanism. Now that the country has local governments in place, the federal government should limit its role to introducing the scheme and letting the local authorities implement. One area where the governments at all levels must focus is awareness. Unless people are made aware of the scheme – and how it works – the scheme runs the risk of being redundant. The plans since also create a social safety net, it can help boost the confidence of youths. Implementation hence will be the key. Also, freebies can make citizens irresponsible, and this fact also should be well taken care of. More focus, however, should always be on creating jobs and absorbing the labour force.

Enforce the law

The low-lying areas of Bhaktapur district, particularly Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, were once again inundated on Sunday due to torrential rains for the last 24 hours. The Madhyapur Thimi area was submerged in flooded waters on July 12 when it received 121.6 mm of rainfall, the highest downpour of the season. However, the area was inundated even if it received as little as 49.5 mm of rainfall.

Locals have attributed the poor drainage system, unplanned urbanisation and illegal encroachment of the Hanumante River by land mafias to the frequent floods in the area. The only solution to the perennial problem is completing the Hanumante River Corridor Project which aims to reclaim the river land encroached by individuals and widen the drainage system. The existing law has banned to build houses within a distance of 20 metres on both sides of rivers. Most houses were found to have submerged in the flooded waters built close to the river banks. The concerned authority must take legal action against those who have encroached upon the river land. The municipality also should not allow people to build houses in the low lying areas that always get inundated. The government must enforce the law strictly.