Though the government had announced a 20 percent discount on food items and LPG gas sold by Food Management and Trading Companies (FMTC) and Salt Trading Corporation (STC) during the period of prohibitory orders, the offer is unlikely to be implemented anytime soon.
Lack of preparation before announcing the discount and non-coordination between organizations concerned have made it highly likely that the offer will be limited to garnering public applause.
Last Saturday, Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel, during his budget speech, had announced 20 percent discount on pulses, rice, sugar, flour, oil and gas. However, FMTC and STC have still not been notified about the government’s discount offer.
“We agree it is necessary to provide a discount amid the COVID crisis, but there has been no discussion with us regarding the issue,” said an employee of FMTC.
“We are having trouble due to the announcement made sans discussion. After the announcement, people ordering food items have started asking for a discount, but we are unable to meet such requests.”
“Consumers are upset as we are not able to provide them discounts. Even the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies didn’t know about the discount. The decision has only confused us. There has been no consultation from government authorities before and after the budget announcement,” said Kumar Raj Rajbhandari, deputy executive officer of the Salt Trading Corporation.
Mohan Prakash Chand, chief executive officer of FMTC, also said that they were unable to implement the discount offer for want of an official letter or notice for exemption from the government.
Local governments of several districts have imposed prohibitory orders, including in the Kathmandu Valley, after seeing the second wave of COVID-19 hit the nation.
FMTC spokesperson Sharmila Neupane said that there was confusion as to when the discount offer would be implement. She said the exemption would be possible only after FMTC receives an instruction from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
Last year too, the government had directed FMTC and Salt Trading to sell food items during lockdown period on 10 percent discount. But the government has not yet paid FMTC the compensation for food items sold at discounted rate last year.
“As per the government’s instructions, we had given discounts last year. But the government has yet to compensate about Rs 35 million to us,” said an official of FMTC, adding, “20 percent discount is a big amount. How do we bear the burden without any proper information?”
Similarly, STC officials said that they had not received compensation of around Rs 110 million from the government for selling food at concessional rates during Dashain-Tihar festival last year. “Therefore, there is no possibility of giving 20 percent discount immediately.”
Meanwhile, Commerce and Supplies Secretary Dinesh Bhattarai said that the budget would be implemented from July 16.
Secretary at the Ministry of Finance Shishir Kumar Dhungana claimed that the public will get the discounts very soon as per the government’s commitment.