EDITORIAL: Resource crunch
More resources are required for the development of remote and impoverished rural municipalities with lesser population
The federal government will have to allocate a large chunk of the budget for recurrent and development expenditure while setting up infrastructure for the provincial and local level units. A recent study carried out by the Ministry of Finance has stated that Rs. 820 billion will be required to build various facilities for 753 local level units and for adjustment of government staffers in the next five years. Most of the old municipalities have some kind of physical infrastructure but all the rural municipalities lack even basic facilities to provide services to the people from the local level. It will be very difficult for the MoF to manage resources at the local and provincial level as it will require a huge amount of money to build the required infrastructure. However, the current fiscal budget has allocated only Rs. seven billion for all seven provinces to make them operational after elections. Fifty-nine percent of the budget is spent on recurrent expenditure, and the liability of the recurrent expenditure will further increase in federal set up. But the government has not come up with new plans to add revenue to meet developmental expenditure.
More than that the federal government will have to share revenues with provincial and local levels after the Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission comes into operation. Sharing of revenues will create pressure on the federal government to mobilize more resources for national priority development projects. Roughly, the federal government will have to share revenue of around Rs. 225 billion with the local levels, putting pressure on the MoF to manage the required resources. The only way to mobilize additional resources required for running the federal system is to borrow loans from donor partners, according to MoF officials. They do not have any novel idea about meeting the challenges posed by the federal system.
The other way out to meet the resources is to expand the tax net. But such a move is not as easy as it is said. Tax may be collected from a single administration to avoid bureaucratic hassles, and it may be shared among the three tiers of governments. The local level governments may collect rental tax but it will not suffice to carry out development activities at the local level. So, all local levels will be entirely dependent on the federal government for development and recurrent expenditures. Some negative signs have already been seen after the local level elections. The MoF has decided to defer the release of the second installment of Rs. 75 billion for the local levels which they were supposed to get by mid-November. More than that, the local governments do not have institutional capacity to spend the development budget to be released by the federal government. It is, therefore, necessary to train the elected officials and local staffers about the management of financial resources and selection process of local development projects. More resources are required for the development of remote and impoverished rural municipalities with lesser population. But the resources have been allocated in the densely populated areas which are already developed compared to rural areas. Such an allocation of budget based on population will further create disparities between rural and urban areas.
As many as 26 districts have been declared fully immunized. The government has given priority to the immunization drive. This has resulted in the decrease of infant and child mortality. Many diseases can be averted by using the vaccines. So far, 11 antigens are provided under the national programme while conducting the immunization campaign. Recently, the last district to be recognized as fully immunized is Sindhupalchowk. The female volunteer health workers in particularl should be commended for the success of fully immunizing the districts. Nepal has succeeded in administering vaccines to most of the children although some children have been missing the vaccines.
So that this does not happen all guardians should be encouraged to provide the required vaccines by creating an awareness about the vaccines to protect the infants and children from various diseases many of which can be very debilitating. The arduous task now is to fully immunize all the districts in order to further reduce the mortality of children and infants. A matter of interest is that Kathmandu has yet to be declared fully immunized. Other districts like Ramechap, Bhaktapur, Solukhumbu and Bardiya are in the process of being declared fully immunized.