EDITORIAL: Take no chances

The government has been too occupied with the party’s internal politics, preventing it from tending to the problems facing the country

In view of the global panic over the spread of the coronavirus, the government has taken the right decision to reschedule Visit Nepal 2020 (VN 2020) and Sagarmatha Sambaad. The VN 2020 certainly did not start at an auspicious time, with the coronavirus rife in China and the Australian bushfire, dashing Nepal’s goal of drawing two million tourists this year. The three-day Sagarmatha Sambaad, a global dialogue on climate change slated to begin April 2, will also take place later. No new dates have been given for the two events as the spread of the coronavirus shows no signs of slackening, with the virus now affecting 60 countries around the world, including the United States and Australia. Nearly 3,000 people have died of the virus and about 87,000 infected, since the virus was first detected on December 1 last year in Wuhan of Hubei Province in China.

Nepal can no longer afford to take chances with the fast-spreading coronavirus as a Nepali, a 31-year-old student who had returned from Wuhan in January, had tested positive for coronavirus, although he was discharged after undergoing treatment at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Kathmandu. A Saudi national, who showed symptoms of coronavirus, after arriving Nepal from China in February, is absconding after having fled from the Teku hospital. On Sunday, four persons – three Nepalis and one Chinese national – were admitted to the isolation ward of the hospital after developing respiratory problems. Thus, Sunday’s Cabinet’s decision to temporarily halt the issuance of on-arrival visa for visitors from countries badly affected by the virus outbreak from this week is welcome. This will definitely impact the tourism industry, as visitors mostly from China, Iran, Japan, Korea and Italy will need to apply for visa from Nepal’s embassy in their respective countries. But this might be a small price to pay compared to the damage caused not only to the tourism industry but to the economy as a whole should there be an outbreak here. The Cabinet meeting also held discussion on temporarily halting flights to and from countries hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The government has given the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal two days to make a decision on the issue. This would badly affect the flow of passengers to and from countries in the Far East, the Gulf countries and even Europe.

The coronavirus scare threatens to bring the country to a standstill as the government is also thinking of temporarily halting the outflow of Nepali migrant workers. But the measures that the government has taken, though belatedly, are necessary to mitigate the impact of a coronavirus outbreak that looms large over the country. Three months after it first appeared in China, the virus shows no sign of receding. However, the government at the moment seems to be occupied with the internal politics of the party, preventing it from giving due priority to the burning problems of the country, such as the coronavirus threat. The government is thus suggested to do all it can to prevent any outbreak and protect the health of its citizens by tending to even small things, such as making masks readily available to them.

Sick projects

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has said that the sick projects that did not meet the construction deadline will not receive any budget from next fiscal year. There are thousands of sick projects that have failed to complete on time. The NPC has also proposed transferring some of the projects that were under the jurisdiction of the central government to the provincial or local levels in the upcoming budget.

The central government had selected many projects or programmes in the past under political influence without assessing their sustainability. The NPC has found that most of them have failed to yield positive results at the grass-roots levels. The funds allocated for these projects should be scrapped and some of them should be handed over to the sub-national governments on condition that they will run them through their own annual budget. While implementing any project, the sub-national governments should avoid duplication of such schemes so that scarce resources can be disbursed to other needy projects. All the provincial and local levels should prioritise the programmes that can help generate job opportunities and skills in their areas.