Nepal | June 03, 2020

EDITORIAL: Passing the buck

The Himalayan Times
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The black market will continue to rule the roost until the government makes its concerned ministries and agencies accountable to the public

It was expected that supplies of essential commodities, including petroleum products and cooking gas, would become normalised across the country with the lifting of the five-month-old blockade at the border points, particularly at the Birgunj customs point. India had eased the supplies of the essential goods from its Raxaul customs points on February 5, three days before the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) officially decided to open the blockade and change its modus operandi of agitation. The government had also assured the public that the petroleum products and cooking gas would be easily available within a week. The state-owned fuel supply monopoly Nepal Oil Corporation had also said that the things would improve for the better within a week. It has been more than two weeks since the lifting of the blockade. But the consumers are still facing acute shortage of the fuels and are seen queuing up in all fuel stations to get a few litres of petrol and diesel.

NOC officials had said they would be providing around 600,000 litres of petrol in the Kathmandu Valley per day after the Birgunj customs point started importing adequate fuels from the Raxaul Depot. But the petroleum dealers said that NOC has been providing only 460,000 litres of petrol per day. The actual consumption of petrol in the Valley a day stands at around 350,000 litres. Even if the petroleum dealers association’s claim is to be believed there should not be any shortage of fuel in the market as NOC has been supplying 110,000 more litres of petrol per day as compared to normal time. The biggest question is where has the additional fuel supplied by NOC gone? Looking at this scenario what can be said for sure is that petroleum products have gone to black markets, and the situation would not normalise unless the government, particularly the Ministry of Supply, promptly sets up an effective monitoring and distribution mechanism.

Even the Prime Minister has instructed secretary at the PMO Kedar Bahadur Adhikari to handle the situation and make effective coordination with the Ministry of Supply regarding the smooth distribution of fuel. But it seems that nobody has taken the PM’s instruction seriously to normalize the supply situation. The concerned departments are passing the buck to others for the mess in the distribution of fuel captured by the black marketeers hoodwinking the government agencies. The monitoring and distribution mechanism became dysfunctional after the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies were bifurcated and their related departments of Commerce and Supplies were also split into two separate entities, making both the departments lame ducks. The newly-formed Department of Supply and Consumers’ Welfare Protection, responsible for monitoring and distribution of fuel and other commodities, has not been fully functional due to lack of organizational strength. Both the ministries should have worked in tandem in the time of crisis. The black marketing is flourishing taking advantage of the government weakness, ineffective monitoring and distribution system. The black market will continue to rule the roost until the government makes its concerned ministries and agencies accountable to and responsible for the public.

Skilled labourers

The nation suffers from the lack of skilled manpower as a result of which it has not been able to develop despite the vast potential it possesses. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) plays an important role for fulfilling this need. Humans are economic assets and it is expected that Support to Knowledge and Lifelong Learning Skills (SKILLS), a three year programme from (2015-2017), will assist the nation in realizing its true potential. The promotion of technical and vocation education has so far failed to work due to limited access to TVET, among other reasons. SKILLS was launched last year which provides the opportunity to link with TVET sector capable of   transforming the nation.

TVET can play a vital role in economic development, poverty reduction and other development endeavours. This was done to enable the country to meet the demand of skilled workers in the labour market. We could make use of the traditional skills by adopting modern technology for their revival.

A version of this article appears in print on February 19, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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