EDITORIAL: For drastic overhaul

Even in vital PEs, drastic reforms, including in ownership structure, should be seriously considered

Most public enterprises operating are running at a huge loss amounting to billions of rupees. Time has come to consider whether it is necessary to keep such enterprises when the private sector can do the job better. Most PEs have failed to perform up to expectation, and those who are affected the most are the taxpayers. This is because of the inefficiency of these enterprises without competent management and the lack of exacting accountability from the management. Moreover, many PEs are involved in corrupt practices and lack of transparency. Various PEs are serving in various sectors, from oil import and distribution to import of consumer goods to making of dairy products. Those PEs whose work can be done by the private sector better and whose products or services are not of strategic value as well as vulnerable to shortages should be phased out as soon as possible. The government has attempted to revive one or two PEs but it has miserably failed in doing so in most cases because of the archaic and lethargic manner in which they work due to lack of proper management.

The country no longer needs PEs like the National Trading Limited (NTL) that was established as a public limited company in March 1962. The NTL used to sell commodities imported from China and the former Soviet Union so as to meet the local cost of the development projects conducted by these countries by the sale of goods gifted in the domestic market. The NTL has loans amounting to as much as Rs. 1.4 billion. This amount is owed to the government and financial institutions.  Despite efforts made by the government to bail out this entity it could not turn around although it spent billions of rupees. Now the government has had enough and is all set to cut its lifeline. The government had introduced a voluntary retirement scheme for the employees of NTL numbering 264 and all of them have chosen this scheme showing how bad things are with NTL. Incidentally, the government has approved all the applications for the voluntary retirement scheme. The NTL has halted all trading and business since last week.

Most public enterprises have the same old story to tell. They are mired in scandals even in high places and also suffer from inefficient management. As such, in Nepal, the reputation of such enterprises has been tarnished. Taking this into consideration the budget of 2016-17 has made provisions for the merger of NTL, Nepal Food Corporation, Agriculture Input Company and Timber Corporation of Nepal. A national supply company would be in place for this purpose. However, it is argued that the NTL and other such state enterprises running at a loss should be shut down. However, the state has a role to play when financing is high such as in the procurement of petroleum products. The private sector would operate only in enterprises which are commercially viable and this is where the government has to intervene by doing the needful but preferably they must not operate as a monopoly. And even in those PEs which the government thinks necessary to keep, drastic reforms, including even in ownership structure, should be seriously considered and implemented to run them in an effective and efficient manner.

Primates’ plight

It is appalling to know that the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT) has sought help from various organizations to provide clean drinking water to around 600 monkeys living in and around the temple area. PADT member secretary Govinda Tandan has said the monkeys, adored as aides to Hindu gods, are starving due to scarcity of food in the Pashupati area and clean drinking water due to their overpopulation and pollution in the holy Bagmati River that flows past the Pashupatinath Temple.

What is frustrating to note is that the PADT collects entry fee and other special fees from the visitors for worshipping in the holy temple. But it has not been able to arrange suitable habitat, food and clean water for the primates who are also the jewels of the area. A certain portion of income the temple earns can be allocated for providing these monkeys with better living condition. The negative image deliberately painted against the primates should be removed by the trust set up to develop the area as a serene holy place listed in the UNESCO world heritage site. The concerned officials first try their best to overcome the problems the monkeys are facing before seeking alms from outside.