EDITORIAL: Walk the walk

The progress reports of the 22 national pride projects reveal that their overall performance is dismal due to time and cost overrun

While addressing the House of Representatives on Saturday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli blew his own trumpet about his government’s achievements on all fronts, including economic growth and creation of jobs within the country, during the two years of his office, which, he said, was ‘a major achievement in itself”. He gave a long list of so-called achievements – even minute details in some areas, including people’s access to the internet – to give an impression that his government was serious about translating his goal of making all Nepalis “happy and prosperous’. In his address, the PM mainly claimed to have successfully implemented the constitution in line with federalism, achieving impressive economic growth, laying the foundation for development, lifting a large number of population out of poverty, implementing the social security fund and taking initiative to investigate the Baluwatar land grab case, which has raised eyebrows in public regarding the impartiality of the probe initiated by the anti-graft body. He also claimed to have worked hard to institutionalise the hard-earned democracy and ensure freedom of expression.

However, the ground reality, as perceived by the general public, is that the government has not been able to live up to the public expectations. It has set its bar too low to prove its achievements in the economic, social and development sectors. What can one say when the PM himself says “two years in office itself is a major achievement?” He did not walk the talk for the past two years. He only talked about grandiose plans of building railways and waterways, which many believe were misplaced priorities. Two years in office was a long time for a nearly two-thirds majority government, not seen for several decades. It failed to set its priorities, based on which the government could have generated hope among the people.

Action speaks louder than words. It applies even to the Oli-led government. The progress reports of the 22 national pride projects, published by the National Planning Commission, reveal that their overall performance is dismal due to time and cost overrun. The cost overrun of these projects is a whopping Rs 283 billion, and some of them have not even started. These infrastructure projects could have become a game-changer in the national economy had they been completed on time. The much-touted foreign direct investment pledge made during the third investment summit has also been uninspiring, given the investors’ lukewarm response to the government’s appeals. However, one thing the PM has now realised – and it was perceived in his speech – is that development and socio-economic changes are processes that take time and do not occur overnight, meaning that what he talked all along was impractical. He has also now realised that a one-man crusade does not bring about the expected changes unless the state machinery sees a complete overhaul. He should have taken all – his party leaders, the opposition, civil society members and bureaucracy – into confidence while taking decisions on issues of national importance. There are still three years to go. A lot of achievements can still be made during this period. The only thing the PM needs to do is to instill confidence in the people with sincere actions.

The milky way

Under pressure from the dairy industry, the government is thinking of allowing the import of milk powder, citing increased demand for it. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development had halted its import in April last year following complaints from the farmers that there was no market for their milk. Despite efforts by the government to produce milk powder in the country, its production is a dismal few metric tons, and the seasonal milk production in the country puts severe strain on the dairies during the lean season. It’s unfortunate that Nepal is not self-sufficient in milk round the year despite the policies and plans that it has been through.

Allowing the import of milk powder to produce milk is not a good idea. This will neither improve the production of milk nor powder. Plant and machinery apart, the industry must now invest in modern dairy farms with high-yielding cows and buffaloes to provide a regular supply of milk round the year. The government and the private sector must also work together to facilitate a steady supply of milk produced in the rural areas to the urban markets as a win-win situation for both the farmer and the industry.