By Pankaj Thapa
This year’s budget is a dream – from provision to mental health, taxation cuts on Electric Vehicles, increment in salaries of public office holders, promise of ease of access to finance to start-ups, there is hardly any sector which feels neglected.
There is one concern however – its execution.
Therefore, we have done a comparison of the promises made last financial year to this year’s promises. We will try to do one next year too – of the progress we have made in metro rails, flyovers and underpasses, or how much percentage of the population is vaccinated, or did we utilize our budget in procuring necessary health supplies.
Meanwhile, here is a rundown of the promises made last year:
Improvement in hospital infrastructure:
Last year, then Finance Minister Dr. Yubaraj Khatiwada, presenting his budget speech at the House of Representatives (as is the norm) said that the government was committed to building a 300 bed epidemiological hospital in Kathmandu Valley.
He also made promises to build at least 50 beds epidemiological hospitals in each provincial capital.
This year, Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel repeated the same promise.
PCR testing and procurement of essential supplies:
Last year – the need of the hour was PCR machines and PCR testing kits. After much pressure, and only once private hospitals and facilities were allowed to conduct PCR tests, satisfactory numbers of PCR tests were able to be realised – i.e. for those who could afford the tests.
Currently, there are 76 centres (public and private) conducting PCR tests across Nepal.
NRS 6 billion was allocated to “avoid shortfall of medicine, equipment, and logistics that may immediately be required for the control and treatment of Covid-19” in last fiscal year – despite the allocated funds, Nepal was in dire shortage of supply of essential medical supplies and equipment when faced with the second wave.
This year the amount has been revised to 4 billion.
In 2020, when thousands of migrant workers returned via land borders from India, and some more thousands abroad awaited to return home – the government in June made a plan to make use of the returning workforce.
There is no official data on the number of people who have benefited from the scheme; however, this year’s plan has been expanded to providing employment opportunities 100,000 people while the target last year stood at 50,000 people.
Meanwhile, the list of people who wish to return abroad for foreign employment is growing and just ahead of the March, 2021 lockdown – airport authorities were reporting an increase in number of migrant workers going abroad.
Thousands are reportedly waiting for the lockdown to lift to go abroad for foreign employment.
Improvement of traffic congestion in Kathmandu Valley:
Last year, Dr. Khatiwada announced the government’s plan to build three flyovers (Nepal’s first) along Ring Road and a tunnel road along the Tinkune-Koteshwor-Jadibuti line.
2021’s announcement was the same.
Development work on East-West Highway:
Proposed development work of the East-West Highway is either nil, or stalled – with work yet to begin in a majority stretch of the road.
Along the Narayanghat-Butwal stretch, where work has begun, work progress is alarmingly slow – causing further inconvenience to those who need to travel via the road.
Daunne, a local stop for many while travelling along the highway has become a ghost town – with their kitchen and utensils collecting dust as irritated motorists rush to complete the stretch.