EDITORIAL: Power to prosperity

That the industries will now get uninterrupted power supply should translate into growth of the industrial sector

More than a year after domestic users said good riddance to hours-long outages, the industrial sector is now rid of load-shedding. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) on Sunday declared that Nepal “is completely load-shedding free starting Monday”. Though the NEA had eliminated load-shedding for domestic users in mid-April last year, the industrial sector was facing power cuts up to three hours a day. According to NEA Managing Director Kul Man Ghising, who deserves credit for his work to bring the country out of dark ages, the state-owned power utility will be able to sustain the supply during winter as well, as the 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project will start generating power by the end of this year. Some private sector projects are also expected to be completed within a year. Currently, the peak time load is around 1,300MW whereas supply stands at around 1,073 megawatts. The country is importing around 450MW of electricity from India.

Within a year, around 1,000MW of electricity – 500MW from the government sector and as much from the private power producers – will be added to the national grid. This is a significant progress, given what we have achieved in the recent past in the energy sector. On top of that, Ghising, who took the helm of the NEA in September 2016, has not only dismantled the corruption nexus in the government-owned power utility but also managed demand and supply while ensuring equal distribution of electricity to all industries. Leakage was yet another issue, which the NEA has been able to successfully cut down to 20 per cent from 26 per cent. Hence, there is light everywhere now. This means a lot for the country’s industries, which until now were facing the risk of closure due to skyrocketing operation costs for the lack of regular power supply. Electricity is not only an  essential commodity but also a confidence booster for businesses.

Electricity brings prosperity. That the industries will now get uninterrupted power supply should translate into growth of the industrial sector. As the government has made prosperity its topmost agenda, there is a need of appropriate policy interventions so as to promote and protect industries, which will create more employment opportunities. Electricity had been one of the major challenges for the growth of the productive sector in Nepal. With that issue resolved now, the government needs to focus on ways to address other problems the productive sector has been facing. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is one of the sectors in Nepal which holds the potential for growth. But high lending rates of banks have been dealing a heavy blow to them. Energy sufficiency and economic recovery – the country’s economy is expected to grow 5.9 per cent this fiscal year – have set the stage for the growth of SMEs and industries, but until the high lending rate issue is addressed, they will not be able to sustain and contribute to economy, for their debt servicing and operations costs will remain high. SMEs alone employ 1.75 million people, and their growth could simply mean more jobs. Power is key to development, and since the country has it now, the government must employ it to achieve prosperity.

Equip with test kits

Most hospitals lack well-equipped laboratories to diagnose acute undifferentiated fever. Most of the hospitals even in the Capital lack this facility which is necessary to detect fever. As per the rules, all laboratories must be equipped with Rapid Diagnostic Tests and Fluorescence-linked Immunosorbent Assay test kits for diagnosing acute undifferentiated fever. Due to lack of these facilities many doctors face difficulties to identify causes of the fever, according to Anup Bastola, a consultant tropical medicine physician, at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital (STIDH).

A proper diagnostic kit is necessary to diagnose fever causing either from virus, bacteria, protozoa or rickettsia. People are likely to suffer from dengue fever, enteric fever, leptospirosis, malaria and brucellosis. Timely detection of fever will help doctors take quick decisions and start treatment of patients. The STIDH said 195 cases of undiagnosed acute undifferentiated fever were recorded at the hospital in the fiscal year 2016/17. The government should provide the required test kits in all public hospitals to diagnose fever on time.