Editorial: Poor spending

The government has not been able to distribute the relief fund to the VDC level due to its poor institutional mechanism. The records made available by the Ministry of Home Affairs speak of its inefficiency when it comes to providing relief fund to the earthquake-affected people in 60 districts. More than 8,800 people were killed and over 23,000 others sustained injuries in the earthquake of April 25 and its aftershocks. It has been eight weeks since the quake devastated one-third of the country’s territory and displaced around one million people, mostly in the 14 worst-hit hilly districts. The Home Ministry has admitted that only 48 percent of the total fund released to the District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRCs) has reached to the VDC level. According to the data, the Prime Minister-led Central Disaster Relief Fund has so far released Rs 12 billion to the Home Ministry which is tasked with coordinating the rescue and relief operation across the country. The Home Ministry has so far released Rs 7.3 billion to the DDRCs in 60 districts and Rs 1.37 billion to various line ministries for providing relief assistance to the quake victims.

The 14 worst-affected districts were the largest recipients of the money allocated. The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) functioning under the Home Ministry has said that of the total amount released by the ministry, only Rs 3.5 billion had been provided to the local bodies by the DDRCs. The NEOC has asked the concerned DDRCs and government agencies to provide details of the expenses after only 48 percent of the money released was found to have been spent. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development had also released Rs 502 million to the local bodies through its Local Governance and Community Development programme. The Ministry of Urban Development had also released Rs 140 million for the same purpose. Both the funds were released to cover the expenses for drinking water, treatment for dehydration, sanitation, medicine and food for 12 days. According to the government plan, the fund released through the Home Ministry and other line ministries was supposed to reach the targeted communities by May 30.

Most of the DDRCs failed to channelize the money to the needy people at the fullest level due to various factors. One of the major reasons behind the non-utilisation of the money at the grass-roots is the non-existence of the elected bodies at VDC level, which could have played a leading role in identifying the quake victims during emergency. It shows that the government mechanism has now been confined only to the district level which has not been able to perform its task of distributing the relief assistance even within the district. Recently, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told the concerned officials to enhance the spending capacity. How can the government machinery enhance its spending capacity within a couple of weeks when the local bodies have remained without representation for the last 18 years? Learning lessons from this chaos, the government must hold local bodies’ elections soon.

Urban regeneration

Most of the core areas of Kathmandu city have buildings which are ill-planned. The April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks have destroyed many buildings including those of heritage sites. A few of these, however, have survived the devastating temblors. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is now thinking over urban regeneration of the core areas of the city. By regeneration of the buildings that have withstood the quakes, these buildings will be revamped without changing the outer and inner looks of the buildings and also open spaces like chowks and also precious monuments.

The KMC will seek feedbacks from the locals. If they are positive about the regeneration the KMC would formulate the necessary policies and strategy to do so within a time frame of six months. The city core areas would also receive the support from the government in building infrastructure including the basics such as roads, streets, alleys open spaces, electricity, drinking water and also put proper drainage systems in place. The KMC is also mulling over designing the new houses similar to those matching the local culture, tradition and architecture.