EDITORIAL: Low spending

Those responsible should own up responsibility and do something to ensure that the development budget is not only spent but spent wisely

Yet again the government has not been able to meet the budget expenditure target which comes as no surprise. Expenditures remained low and the government was able to spend only 65.5 per cent of the allocated Rs.311.95 billion meant for development works. Huge amounts of money were made available for the reconstruction after the major earthquakes in 2015 and for projects taken as national pride but they could not be used for various reasons including the lack of preparedness about the projects. Two examples of such debacles are the Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track and the proposed second international airport in Nijgadh. Considering that the development expenditure was the lowest in 2016-17 since 2011-12 except for 2015-16 when there was a disruption of trade, this sounds alarm bells about the dismal state of the economy the country is now in. In the meantime, the Financial Comptroller General’s Office states that the total budget expenditure was only Rs. 823.48 billion which is 78.51 per cent of the allocated Rs. 1,048.92 billion.

This has raised the question of fund allocation once again. The expenditure tends to be higher at the end of the fiscal year as has been happening usually over the years. The figures speak for themselves. The government spent as much as Rs. 218.85 billion in the last month of the fiscal year 2016-17 alone. Spending of the government was only Rs. 604.64 in the first 11 months of this fiscal but this spurted to Rs. 823.49 billion by the year. Interestingly the spending rose by as much as Rs. 94 billion in the 10th and 11th months of this fiscal. This all reeks of corrupt and unethical practice when we take into account that the government’s development spending had risen two-fold in the last two months of the fiscal. While spending under the development category was Rs. 90.24 billion at the end of the 10th month of the fiscal it reached a staggering Rs. 120.1 billion at the end of the 11th month reaching a high of Rs. 204.31 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

Spending by the government was Rs. 84.21 billion on development works in the last month. As payments are made for contractors for the completed projects the development spending is seen to be increasing in comparison to regular spending on salaries and re-payment of principal foreign loans. On an average, Rs 3.5 billion in capital budget was spent per day in the last three weeks of the fiscal in comparison to the daily average of Rs. 0.6 billion in the entire financial year of 2016-17. In this economic scenario, the government collected revenue that exceeded the target by Rs. 46.30 billion. The target was to collect a revenue worth Rs. 565.9 billion but it ended up collecting Rs. 612.20 billion instead. Since over the years the government has repeatedly failed to meet the budget expenditure target there is need to ensure that the goal is met and are made more realistic. Those responsible for being unable to spend the budget should own up responsibility and do something to ensure that the development budget is not only spent but spent wisely.

Cleaning the rivers

The longest running voluntary campaign – the Bagmati Clean-Up Campaign – will be handed over to the local levels to clean up the holy river from next year. This is one of the successful initiatives shouldered by the Nepal civil society itself without external support of any kind and cash.

The people who took such a noble initiative about 218 weeks ago are hopeful that the local levels will be able to take responsibility to continue with the clean-up campaign that has brought about positive result in converting this into a beautiful holy river in the real sense.

As all the metropolitan cities and municipalities have already started formulating policies and programmes they must give top most priority to clean up the rivers and come up with long-term plan of action so that nobody will dare encroach upon the river banks and pollute them in whatsoever manner. The Lalitpur and Kathmandu Metropolitan Cities must work in tandem to keep the clean-up campaign going. Other rivers, rivulets and creeks should also be made free from pollution and citizens should be strictly barred from dumping garbage into the water bodies. The municipalities can also come up with a law taking various measures to keep all water bodies clean and safe for recreation.