EDITORIAL: Low spending

The World Bank estimates show that it is still the agriculture sector that plays a vital role for economic growth

The World Bank has projected that the economic growth will remain at 4.6 percent this fiscal due to recent floods in the Tarai, the main food bastion, dwindling export growth and remittance. The last fiscal 2016/17 saw a robust growth by 6.9 percent due to record high paddy production and industrial output as a result of regular supply of electricity and increased service sector. This year it is expected that the agriculture production will shrink to 2.7 percent compared to 5.3 percent growth during the last fiscal. The World Bank estimates show that it is still the agriculture sector that plays a vital role for economic growth as industrial and service sector are also directly associated with the agriculture sector which needs to be boosted up if the country is to achieve the desired level of economic growth. There are many hydropower projects under construction which have also been badly affected due to the recent floods and landslides. In this backdrop, the government has to make huge investments in infrastructure development, including in agriculture sector, to give a momentum to economic growth. But sad to say is that the government has not come up with any long-term plan of action to deal with floods and landslides and rehabilitate the affected people who are the driving force of the national economy.

On the other hand, the government has failed to increase the capital expenditure in the first two months of the fiscal. Statistics show that the government’s capital expenditure stood only at 1.27 percent of the total allocated capital budget. According to the Financial Comptroller General Office, the government has spent only Rs. 4.27 billion in the last two months out of the total capital budget of Rs. 335.17 billion, whereas it has spent Rs. 119.18 billion under the regular expenditure during the same period. If the capital spending capacity continues this ratio the government will be able to spend roughly Rs. 45 billion in the remaining ten months to come. In this way, no development activities will take place unless the government improves its spending capacity making drastic reforms in the processes of feasibility study, awarding of contracts, monitoring and evaluation of any development project prioritised by the government.

The government is the biggest investor in the infrastructure development which plays a lead role in generating employment opportunities within the country. Although the new constitution has made it mandatory for the government to present the fiscal budget every year on May 28, the Finance Ministry delays releasing the required budget allocated to a project to the line ministries which also delays releasing the budget to their departments or the contractors. Such kind of dilly-dallying in releasing the budget must be addressed first to make sure that development tasks are completed on time with appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanism. Many finance experts also blame the Public Procurement Act for hindering quick decisions by the authorities concerned. What can be advised is that a detailed study of a project, financing and contract process must be completed one or two years in advance so that the contractor can start the work on time and the government can monitor it properly.

Property details

All those who hold public posts are required to submit their property details within 60 days after assuming office or within 60 days after the completion of each fiscal year. They are required to show their source of income as well as that of their family members. Should they fail to do so within the stipulated deadline they are fined Rs. 5,000 each. If they do not do this then the authorities could start probing the property details in their name and that of their family members. Despite this provision, over 4,800 civil servants are found to have not submitted their property details in the current fiscal year. The figures provided by the Department of Civil Personnel Records show that out of a total of 86,895 civil servants only 82,083 have done so.

The deadline for submitting these details was September 13. Just fining the erring civil servants Rs. 5,000 is not enough. This calls for stronger action to ensure that the public servants submit the required property details within the time frame given. These details have been sought to check the rampant corruption that is taking place.