Means to an end
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation’s decision to hike airfares in the domestic sector may be justified on grounds of the ever-increasing price of aviation fuel in the international market. Depending on flight duration and operation costs, the government has permitted the domestic airlines operators to hike fares by up to 11.8 per cent in the remote sector — on air routes to Tumlingtar, Taplejung, Lamidanda, Simikot, Jumla, Bajura, Doti and Dolpa. Likewise, the airfares in the tourist sector operating flights to Pokhara, Bhairahawa, Lukla and Bhojpur will be hiked by up to 17.6 per cent. The other sector operating flights to Nepalgunj, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa and Janakpur is also allowed a hike of up to 13-14 per cent. But the dollar fare for foreign tourists continues to remain the same. The airfare will henceforth include fuel and insurance surcharges. At the same time, price competition among airlines should be encouraged.
By considering the pilots’ long-standing demand, the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC) has taken a wise step to raise their flying and meal allowances. The current state of the national flag carrier is far from satisfactory primarily because decades of mismanagement, abuse of its resources and the lack of punishment have encouraged those bent on engaging in malpractices. Rampant corruption, under-the-table deals, red-tapism, and overstaffing have all contributed to RNAC’s present sorry state, leading people to see privatisation as the only option of bringing it back to good health. In today’s globalised context and to generate more revenue the RNAC needs complete overhauling of its management and ownership pattern to ensure competent and efficient services. Outright privatisation could be one way, but given the past privatisation initiatives, doing this would involve high risks. So the road to privatisation can be better paved with the floating of RNAC shares to begin with. It surely has distinct benefits.