EDITORIAL: Low spending

Major reason for the local units being unable to spend the budget was the delay in the endorsement of the Local Level Operation Act by Parliament

The local levels have been able to spend only a nominal amount of the grants provided by the central government. This problem has been besetting the country for long. This is often attributed to the fact that the country lacks the spending capacity which is indeed very plausible. The government has been allocating the local levels grants of up to Rs. 150 billion but much of them still are unused. They had received a tranche of Rs. 75 billion each from the government on July 17 and November 15 as provisioned by the annual budget of the fiscal year 2017-18. According to the concerned this is so because the local units have technical and practical difficulties while implementing their plans and programmes. There is often a delay in finalizing the plans and programmes together with the lack of technical resources and the necessary preparatory works adversely affecting the spending of the budget.

The government for its part has not succeeded in mobilizing the much needed human resources for the implementation of the estimation of the plans and programmes. Also responsible for the present predicament this year is the holding of the provincial and parliamentary elections which impacted the preparatory works for the implementation of the budget. Due to the elections even members of the local consumer committees and contractors were engaged in the election campaigns as a result of which the budget could not be spent. It is expected that the spending of the grants will gather pace in the next three months or so hopefully. Another major reason for the local units being unable to spend the budget was the delay in the endorsement of the Local Level Operation Act from the Legislature-Parliament. It was done on September 20 and defines the roles of the newly elected local level officials. As a result, most of the local bodies are behind in spending of the allocated budget. Moreover, the local units have managed to spend a very low portion of the government grant in about five months of the current fiscal year.

So far the government has provided Rs. 225 billion as grants for the local units. It would be releasing the third settlement of Rs. 75 billion in mid-March. Meanwhile, it is generally believed that the unspent amount by the local bodies would be frozen but this is not the case. This amount could be utilized later and the local bodies would be saving it with them. The annual budget provides for the rural municipalities between Rs. 100 million and Rs. 430 million, municipalities Rs. 150 million to Rs. 430 million, sub-metropolitans Rs. 400 million to Rs. 630 million and metropolitan cities Rs. 560 million to Rs. 1.24 billion. Instead of passing the buck for not being able to spend the grant provided by the government the concerned should amend their way of functioning. Now with the elections of the representatives at the local level it is believed that they would take the required remedial measures so that the budget is spent and the development activities will pick up and the money allocated would be used timely without any dilly-dallying. Only a few local units have managed to utilize 50 per cent of the total grant provided by the government up-till now.

Sharp drop

The number of Nepali students opting to study medical sciences in foreign countries has sharply dropped almost by 70 percent after the universities and the authorized bodies made it mandatory to pass the MBBS/BDS entrance examinations to be conducted by the concerned universities. On February 1, 2016, the Nepal Medical Council came out with a policy that barred students who fail to pass the entrance exams from studying medical sciences abroad. As many as 1,461 students had gone abroad for studying medicine in 2015. However, the number of students going for medical studies has dropped to 478 in 2016. The figure shows that the rule has become effective to control students who are not qualified to pursue the medical sciences that is directly associated with human life.

This rule had to be introduced after more than 85 percent of the students went abroad for medical studies even if they failed to pass the entrance exams held either by Tribhuvan University or Kathmandu University. With this rule coming into force, only meritorious students can go abroad or get admissions in medical colleges within the country based on the counseling.