EDITORIAL: Same fare

The explanations offered towards the end of year are just lame excuses for the inflated growth forecasts the government had made

Over many years, the country’s economic growth rates have often fallen short of the government’s projections. Similarly, the objective of reducing the trade gap has never been realized. These two indicators have often been not very encouraging. That is why the country is not developing fast whatever the promises of politicians and officials. For this fiscal year, the government’s economic growth target is 7.2 per cent. The government had set the target on the assumption that agricultural and industrial production would rise, wholesale and retail trade would expand, and the service sector would grow strongly. It had also expected the huge election expenditure to help the economic growth. Judging by the past, government has shown a strong tendency to set the development targets, including the overall economic growth target, at an unrealistically high level. That is why these targets have to be often revised towards year-end when truths become evident.

In contrast to the government’s rosy projections, paddy production, which accounts for 22 per cent of the agricultural gross domestic product, is expected to go down this year. The reasons for lower paddy output this year are drought during the rice planting season and subsequent flooding of most of the Tarai region. With more regular power supply, industrial output had been expected to rise, but is not likely to be so. And this has been attributed to ‘base effect’ – the high base of last year and the delay in the completion of the highest capacity project – the 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi. But the most important fact remains that the growth target will not be met this year. But according to some government officials, the development projects have stalled due to elections. They say it will be difficult for the government to spend the development budget this year. But when had the government been able to fully utilize the development budget in the past? The deposit crunch has also been blamed, leading to a sharp fall in lending to the private sector. The deposit crunch is expected to become worse as remittance growth is low and government spending sluggish.

But such explanations do not carry much weight. The failure to predict has been a problem with our governments of whatever political hues. To become popular, they bring populist budgets and paint a rosy picture of the economy, but given the average tenure of a government over the past years, by the time the results of the budget projections come home, that government is unlikely to be in power, so it does not have to answer. The root problem lies with this wrong mind-set of politicians, political parties and the government officials. The explanations offered towards the end of year are just lame excuses for the inflated growth forecasts the government had made in the beginning of a fiscal year. Without a change of thinking on the part of government leaders and the courage to accept reality and make realistic projections though these might not be eye-catching, the same fare will repeat itself in the years to come, as in the past. Therefore, the revised projection of a lower economic growth rate this year is not surprising.

Where’s the light?

Of the 231 solar street lights installed across Bhaktapur Municipality, 30 per cent are non-functional, thanks to lack of proper supervision and maintenance. This brings to the fore the fact the lackadaisical approach the concerned authorities often take when it comes to maintaining utilities meant for members of the public. Street lights provide public safety and locating them strategically, particularly at major crossing points and the areas which are usually deserted after certain hours during the night, can improve safety of pedestrians by reducing road crashes discouraging street crimes.

In Bhaktapur’s case, the non-functional solar street lights mean a huge amount of resources has gone down the chute. According to Bhakatpur Municipality, the government provided 65 per cent budget while 20 per cent budget was funded by the municipality and 15 per cent by the Consumers’ Committee. Seven per cent budget was set aside for maintenance. But there is confusion over who is responsible for the repair and maintenance of these solar street lights.

There is a need of clearing the confusion at the earliest and fix the non-functional solar lights so as to increase public safety as well as save the already installed equipment from going to waste.