Planning and budgetary exercises provinces have done will help them gain experience for the next fiscal
All provincial governments recently unveiled their policies and programmes for the remaining three months of the current fiscal. It was the constitutional compulsion for them to present the policies and programmes even if they were only for three months. They could not unveil their policies earlier as it took over a month to form the provincial assemblies, elect Speakers and Deputy Speakers and also to form provincial governments after the last phase of parliamentary and provincial elections that concluded on December 7 last year. All the provincial assemblies and governments were also facing shortages of government staffers, physical infrastructure and laws required to run the provincial governments. Based on the policies and programmes, Provinces 1, 4 and 5 have already presented the budget for the remaining three months, and others are doing homework to table the budget in their respective assemblies. Provinces 1, 4 and 5 have presented budget estimates of over Rs one billion. The Ministry of Finance had told the provincial governments to limit budget ceiling to around Rs one billion considering time constraints for them to spend the budget.
Going through the policies and programmes of all the provincial governments, they have, by and large, laid special emphasis on tourism, energy, agriculture, irrigation, compulsory primary education and infrastructure development. Province 2 has given priority to agriculture and irrigation while it has also vowed to launch “Beti Bachao Abhiyan” (Save the Daughters Campaign) to increase girls’ enrolment in schools. It is a good initiative. It has also vowed to attract investment in setting up industries as province has relatively better physical infrastructure and connectivity compared to the others. Provinces 4, 5 and 7 have common agenda to make their provinces prosperous. Province 7 has, among others, pledged to attract investment in the hydropower sector, offering tax exemption and other incentives and to focus on livestock rearing, fruit and a large scale herbal plantation and its processing. Public perception towards federalism has become positive after the provincial governments came out with their plans.
Undoubtedly, the policies unveiled by the provincial governments may not be fully implemented within the remaining three months of the fiscal due to lack of their institutional capacity, experience and expertise. The budget estimates that they have already presented or will present shortly will also be frozen, only to be carried over for the next fiscal 2018/19. However, the planning and budgetary exercises that they have done this time will surely help them gain more collective experiences for the next fiscal which begins on July 17. All provincial governments are required to present their policies and programmes by June 15 for the next fiscal. By that time, all necessary laws required for the operation of the provincial governments have to be ready, along with adequate human resources. From now onwards, people of the respective provinces will be watching closely as to how policies are formulated and fiscal budget estimates are prepared. People will also have their say in allocating budget in projects that they want to see developed.
Every year, thousands of women across Nepal suffer complications during delivery, and many die needlessly due to lack of required care. In this context, the Ministry of Health is starting a special campaign on safe motherhood in 2018-2019. Safe motherhood is an initiative which aims to ensure that all women receive the care they need to be safe and healthy throughout pregnancy and childbirth. The ministry is planning to set up a “safe motherhood fund “in every municipality.
Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of death for women of reproductive age in Nepal. Inadequate health care, lack of family planning, long distances to medical facilities and early marriage are the main reasons that result in deaths of young mothers during childbirth. Nepal though has made impressive progress in reducing maternal mortality rate – from 850 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 258 in 2015, thanks to government’s Safe Motherhood Programme launched two decades ago. But a lot still needs to be done to fulfill Nepal’s commitment of reducing MMR to less than 70 by 2030. There is a need to ensure quality obstetric care and availability of qualified health workers, especially midwives.
A version of this article appears in print on April 18, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.