EDITORIAL: Having a dream
Even if half the dreams are realized, that will be a significant step forward for the country and its people
The over trillion rupee National Budget for the coming fiscal year 2016/17, unveiled by Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel on Saturday, has drawn charges of frittering away too much money on too many things of unproductive nature for mere populism, instead of being fiscally tight and geared to increasing the production capacity of the economy. It is something like the charges faced by the popular Budget presented by the minority CPN-UML government some two decades ago. Admittedly, there are tough challenges ahead which need to be overcome if the objectives and targets of the Budget are to be met. A major doubt is whether the government will be able to spend all the budget outlay, particularly of capital nature, against the history of less spending.
Of more than the one trillion, after nearly rupees 120 billion (over 11 per cent of the total budget) has been set aside for loan repayments and investment in the public corporations, the ratio of capital expenditure to recurrent expenditure comes to 1 to 2. The expenditure will be met through several sources -- revenue collection (54 per cent), which is significantly above the revenue collection target for the current year, foreign grants (over 10 per cent), foreign loans (approximately 19 per cent), internal loans (nearly 11 per cent), and cash reserves (nearly 6 per cent). If the ambitious revenue collection falls way behind the target, budget implementation might suffer. The budget also runs a significant risk of fueling inflation, with the recurrent expenditure predominant. Whether the limits of deficit financing are within safe limits is subject to question as well.
With some caveats about the budget, it should however be said that the Oli-led government has a vision for Nepal, which is to minimize the vulnerability of the country to swings in the moods of other governments; to build development infrastructure like transportation network, including railways, connecting it with our big neighbours, and international airports and alternative transport routes, such as the Kathmandu-Tarai fast track; to give the energy sector a big boost; to implement the agreements reached with India and China during PM KP Sharma Oli’s recent visits there; to turn around agriculture (including a fine for keeping one’s land barren), industry and tourism with several incentives; to focus on employment creation; to provide basic social services like providing drinking water and basic health and education, including a health insurance for Nepali citizens; to provide other social security, such as doubling of allowances for senior citizens, disabled persons and other needy sections; and more. The budget has been wise not to raise the tax rates against the background of the devastating earthquake and of the crippling trade blockade. It has sought to give something for everybody. Indeed, this budget appears to be the most ambitious at least since the restoration of multiparty system in 1990. It has also been accused of selling dreams; but at a time when the general people are despairing, having a reason to dream is in itself a feel-good factor. Even if half the dreams are realized, that will be a significant step forward for the country and its people.
Disabled friendly facilities are sorely lacking in this country. The differently-abled constitute a significant proportion of the population. They have the right to these facilities and providing them with such is not doing them a favour. The government should build more infrastructures for them. Narrow roads and lack of managed traffic and pavements make it difficult for the visually impaired to commute. Due to lack of these, the human rights of the disabled are seen to be grossly violated.
hAs such, both the public sector and NGOs and also the civil society should see to it that there are the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the disabled so that their right is protected. We could make a good beginning by building special toilets for the disabled in all the government offices and public places. If such infrastructures were in place the disabled would be able to lead better lives. The country should take care of its disabled denizens by addressing their problems by, among other things, seeing to it that there is no discrimination against them like we see in public transports although seats are reserved for them in every bus.