EDITORIAL: Boost spending

For the government to meet its target of high economic growth, it must mobilise its funds in capital formation programmes

Ever since the KP Oli government took shape in February this year, “prosperity” has been its oft-repeated slogan. Since this is the most powerful government in the country in more than last two and a half decades, there were hopes that economic activities would pick up pace. And when Prime Minister Oli picked Yubaraj Khatiwada, a technocrat who once served as the central bank governor and twice as the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, as the finance minister, expectations ran even higher. But, despite a very powerful government being in place, neither development works nor the capital expenditure has seen desired growth. The government has utterly failed to invest its funds in capital formation programmes. As per the statistics of the Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO), the government in the first five months of the current fiscal year has managed to spend a meagre Rs 39.51 billion (12.59 per cent ) of the Rs 313.998 billion allocated for capital expenditure for fiscal year 2018-19.

The country’s capital spending for years has always been on the slower side. Earlier “political instability” used to be a readymade answer for governments’ failure to enhance their spending capacity. But now the country has attained political stability and governance has been decentralised. A federal government at the centre and governments in all seven provinces and 753 local units are well in place. So the focus should have been on improving economic activities — increasing spending on productive sectors and investing funds into capital formation programmes. Since this is not happening, it is time to once again diagnose the problems that are hindering the government’s spending capacity and find a lasting solution.

There certainly are some systemic problems that stem from lethargic bureaucracy and visionless political leadership. Lengthy procurement procedures, hassles in tender process, lack of coordination among ministries and government agencies, unnecessary red tape and a deep-rooted tendency not to work unless there is personal benefit are some of the reasons that slow the government spending. Projects of public significance fail to take off, as sanctions are delayed unless there are kickbacks. Croynism and rent-seeking rule the roost. Consequently, capital expenditure picks up pace only when the fiscal year nears to close. Ramping up spending in the last two-three months of the fiscal year means more corruption and sub-standard work. Sluggish spending has profound consequences on economy. This is strange that the incumbent government has set a target of 8 per cent economic growth but is failing to spend its budget. If the government wants to put the country on the high growth trajectory, it has to dismantle the rent-seeking regime. It has to crack down on corruption. The private sector is already wary of government’s expenditure controlling mechanisms and inability to introduce effective policies to speed up development works. Only with expedited capital spending in productive sectors can the country boost economic activities. More spending means creating more employment opportunities, boosting development works and spurring growth which together then set a solid foundation for prosperity.

Mental illness

Mental illness is one of the major health problems in rural areas where psychological counselling and timely medical attendance are hardly available. Family members pay little attention in the initial stage about their kin and kith when they show symptoms of mental illness due to poor financial condition or lack of awareness. Women in rural areas have been found to be suffering more from mental illness than men. Mental illness is a health condition that affects one’s mood, thinking and behaviour.

A report from Khotang’s Diprung Chuichumma Rural Municipality tells a sorry state of a mentally-ill Ramila Tamang, 33, who was locked in a shed for the last six  months after she started showing abnormal behaviour. However, after much criticism, the municipality provided cash to her husband for her medical treatment in Kathmandu. It is not possible to treat all people of such condition in the Capital. All local health centres must develop a facility where those people get medical services at local levels at an affordable cost. The local levels should allocate budget to treat people suffering from mental illness. Nobody should be left behind the health services.