Tuin Crossings Still Exist In Nepal
One of the decisions of the first Cabinet meeting when KP Oli became the Prime Minister for the first time on October 12, 2015 was to displace all the Tuins in the country within two years. The government then had allocated over 3 billion rupees to replace the traditional wire river crossings or the Tuins number about 187 with suspension bridges. Twenty-eight months have passed since then, only 41 per cent of work has been completed so far- 75 of 187 Tuins have been replaced with suspension bridges while other 59 are to be replaced, according to reports, within this year. It was a right decision because people in remote areas were forced to use Tuins in absence of bridges to cross rivers even by putting life in danger. Delay in completion of this simple development work shows how sluggish our development pace is. But, in comparison to the delay in the construction of the 30MW Chameliya hydro project, speed of Tuins displacement work is not so bad.
Initially planned to be completed in 4 years by 2011 at the cost of 8.5 billion rupees, NEA’s Chameliya hydropower project was completed just a month back- after 11 years. Chameliya took three-fold more times to get completed while Tuins displacement is likely to take only double of the time as projected. Started 3 years ago and planned to complete the work within a year or so, the expansion and improvement of the Mugling-Narayangadh road section, which is a lifeline to the capital city Kathmandu, is likely to take one more year. Only 70 per cent of the work of the 32-km road has been performed so far. It is likely to take four-fold more time period than expected, and thousands of people have been troubled daily due to the delay. These should suffice to prove utterly sluggish pace of our development activities.
And now against this backdrop of development pace, KP Oli has become the Prime Minister for the second time with lofty election commitments such as constructing the Rasuwagadhi-Kathamndu-Birgunj railway, Kathmandu railway, upgrading east-west highway to 6/8 lane within next five years, producing 20,000MW of electricity and increasing per capital income to 5,000 USD within a decade, developing self-reliant economy, free housing plot to those who lost houses in floods and landslides, ensuring food export within 5 years (Nepal imports food grains of billions of rupees annually), modern irrigation system within 5 years to all cultivable land, electrification across the country within 3 years, high voltage transmission line along the Karnali, Gandaki, Koshi corridors and the mid-hill highway, upgrading 81,000 km rural road into agricultural road, exploration and refinement of uranium in Mustang in five years, exploration and refinement of petroleum in Dailekh and iron ore in Nawalparasi in five years, transforming all rural municipality into municipality in five years.
There are many other things related to development of waterways, increasing annual tourist arrival to 5 million within a decade, maintaining 40 per cent forest coverage, industrial development and employment generation in the common election manifesto of the left alliance, CPN-UML and CPN -Maoist Centre.
Now, the first Cabinet meeting has decided to establish industrial park in each of the 753 local levels, among other decisions, within next five years. During election campaign in Biratnagar on November 4 last year, Oli had said “We are determined to eliminate corruption.” The Cabinet decision reflects on this commitments made then and the pledges made in the election manifesto.
Given the present pace of development work as mentioned above and bureaucratic as well as legal, procedural structures combined with financial constraints, it is unlikely that all the commitments of the left alliance will be implemented within the next five years even if there is political stability as expected. But many things such as Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu railway estimated by a Chinese expert team to cost 2.75 bln USD, Kathmandu-Pokhara railway (costing 3 bln USD), east-west electrified railway (construction already started) can be constructed or works to that end initiated, percentage of irrigated land increased, which will generate employment as well as enlarge economy. Let’s consider this. In 1979 when economic reform was initiated, per capital income in China was about 100 USD. China’s economy was one tenth of the US, one fifth of Japan’s. Now, 38 years after that, China’s per capita income is over 8,000 US dollars. China’s economy is the second largest in the world and it is projected that it will supersede the US economy and become the largest economy by 2029.
Nepal’s per capita income at present is 853 USD, and left alliance has pledged to make it 5,000 dollar within a decade and for this economic growth should be over 10 per cent and the size of the economy at east least trebled or there should be economic growth of 15-20 per cent continuously for a decade.
With support from 174 members of the 275-member House of Representatives, there is no need for the government to worry about its tenure. The only challenge is to ensure unification between the two parties, which now largely depends on the UML leaders. Out of 753 local levels, the left alliance has the government in over 400 and out of 7 provinces, 6 provincial governments are led by left alliance. From the federal government to local ones, the left alliance controls the power. This is a historic opportunity.
With the participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, there is big scope for attracting Chinese investment in infrastructure development such as railway, hydropower and other development works. As India has expressed willingness to work with the new government, increase in investment from India is also expected. Moreover, there are other donors and friendly countries such as Japan which have been supporting Nepal for development endevours. If we make good development projects, financial constraints can also be overcome with loan from international financial institutions. What is needed is political will. Oli as a prime minister has already proved such a willpower during the Indian blockade of 2015, and this time his political will to unify the two parties for political stability and development of the country will have a far-reaching implication for the fate of the country.