EDITORIAL: Discriminatory scheme

The bureaucrats who have played a key role in drafting the bill have only looked after their petty interests

The Finance Ministry has come up with a draft bill on a contributory pension scheme for all government employees to be endorsed by the Cabinet. The bill would then be presented in the Legislature-Parliament for its passage. Under the contributory pension scheme, civil servants would have to contribute 10 per cent of their monthly salary for their pension. Existing practice has it that a civil servant does not need to contribute to his/her pension scheme and it is the state that has to pay a retired civil servant. The government for its part would be contributing a certain amount to the fund if this scheme comes into force. The provision will come into effect only after 20 years of it being endorsed by Parliament. It means that the contributory pension scheme will be applicable only to those who are recruited after this bill becomes law and those who have already joined the bureaucracy do not need to contribute to the new pension scheme. The Cabinet must bring about changes in the bill proposed by the MoF that aims to give leverage to those civil servants who are currently in service. The proposed bill must cover all civil servants even if they are about to retire within a couple of months, requiring them to contribute during the remaining period of their service.

The funds thus saved could be used for dealing with pension liability. The rise in the recurrent expenditure adversely affects the government’s ability to spend in development projects, capital formation and the creation of more employment in this impoverished country. The pension amount dispensed to the retired government officials who have completed the tenure has proved to be a burden which is ever increasing.  In fact, the amount provided to them as pension has doubled in the last five years. The government would have to pay a hefty amount of Rs.45 billion by way of pension in the current fiscal year. There was a steep increase in pension disbursed after the government had raised the monthly salary of the civil servants by as much as 25 per cent in the fiscal 2015-16.

As of now, as many as 236,000 retired government officials are receiving pension from government coffers. Moreover, the salary provided to the civil servants and government teachers, among others, are paid lucratively as compared to the private sector. They are being provided pension based on the total number of years in government service multiplied by the salary scale the officials are receiving at the time of their retirement divided by 50. Civil servants are fortunate that they are being provided pension whereas the employees of government corporations and private firms are not. This contributory scheme is not based on the equality principle and justice as only the new civil servants will have to contribute and the existing ones can only reap all the benefits without making any contribution even after the bill becomes law. It must be changed accordingly. The bureaucrats who have played a key role in drafting the bill have only looked after their petty interests, casting all other important factors to the winds. Sadly, the government leaders, the opposition and the lawmakers too seem oblivious to the discriminatory application of an otherwise good provision of contributory pension scheme.

Air quality

Air quality in the Kathmandu Valley has been deteriorating over the years due to overpopulation, emission from vehicles, haphazard construction, brick kiln factories and low level of sanitation and cleanliness. In order to accurately measure the air quality in the Valley the government has now set up stations which will feed information about the level of air quality. They have been set up at Shankhapark, TU premises, Birendra Sainik Avasiya Vidhyalaya, Bhaktapur, and Bhaisepati Residence Area.

Officials said that these stations are enough to get accurate information about the air quality in the Valley which has more vehicles running in the streets than the length of the total roads. These stations will directly send data to the central server about dust particles, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and ozone in the atmosphere. Other studies have shown that the number of people suffering from respiratory ailments, including bronchitis and pain, have increased dramatically after the Melamchi Drinking Water Project started laying water pipes in the Valley. The government should also come up with plans to mitigate poor air quality which has posed real threat to the public health.