EDITORIAL: Too bureaucratic

The government should make the rules simpler and hassle-free if it really intends to help the quake victims

Although seven months have passed since the devastating earthquake of April 25 and its aftershocks little progress has been achieved in providing relief to many of the victims and there has been delay in carrying out reconstruction works. Many earthquake victims are still living in temporary shelters without proper arrangements for drinking water and sanitation. The National Planning Commission (NPC) is thinking about starting the distribution of grants of up to Rs. 200,000 to the owners of houses that had been destroyed by the earthquake. Around 490,000 private houses are estimated to have been damaged or destroyed needing reconstruction. The dispensation of the said amount has been delayed because the National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR), which is authorized to dole out the amount, has yet to be formed. This is because of the political wrangling. It has been four months since the budget was launched. The government had committed itself to provide Rs. 74 billion to the NAR, but so far very little of this amount has been spent. This inordinate delay in allocating the money as provisioned in the budget is therefore due to the insensitivity of both the government and main opposition leaders which are divided over who should be the CEO of NAR.

The Cabinet has now made it known that it is planning to distribute up to Rs. 200,000 to those whose houses were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The NPC will be overseeing this till the formation of the NAR. The work pertaining to the reconstruction of houses was supposed to be supervised by a seven-member steering committee led by the CEO of NAR. But since the CEO has yet to be appointed the vice-chairman of the NPC would be responsible for doing this until the formation of NAR and appointment of its CEO. According to the present arrangements the owners of private houses which are being reconstructed, who have acquired concessional loans of up to Rs. 2.5 million from banks and other financial institutions would not be provided with this grant. The house owners who are reconstructing the houses with the Rs. 200,000 grant will be receiving it in four installments. They are required to build quake resistant houses whose design would be approved by the division offices or the District Project Units of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor how the houses are being reconstructed and to see to it that the house owners building them stick to the rules.

Technical experts would be inspecting the houses being reconstructed and see the progress in building the houses by visiting the building sites. The first installment of the fund would be released to build the foundation. The second would be provided to build the walls of the house, the third to build the roof and also minor finishing work and the last to build the toilets. Such stringent conditions are impracticable and will not make the way smooth for the release of two lakh rupees, which is very inadequate even to build the simplest and cheapest of the houses. The government should make the rules simpler and hassle-free if it really intends to help the quake victims. It would be better if the entire amount was given in a lump sum so that the victims can do something with the money.

Act without delay

The Ministry of Supplies and Commerce has come up with new plan of distributing fuel from designated petrol pumps to public vehicles and other essential services including the media personnel. This time the public vehicles and educational institutions will get more fuel than in the past on an odd-even license plates basis. This system will provide relief to the passengers travelling on long routes and in city areas.

It is a welcome move that the government has tried its best to distribute diesel and petrol to the users in a systematic manner. But it is not the long-term solution. Unless the government manages to import required amount of fuels and cooking gas from other countries the problem will remain as it is. The best way to resolve this crisis and to sustain the national economy is to reach an agreement with China and Bangladesh to import the various types of fuel. This agreement must be reached without any further delay as the economy is in a very bad condition.