Ensuring Social Security
Hari Bahadur Thapa
It is debatable issue whether a modern state should give emphasis on social security to people or ensure secured society for the people. Developing or least developed courtiers (LDCs) like Nepal face great stress to address the issues related to social security. South Asia, especially Indian continent is often cited as a hub of poor among the developed world. People of this continent are suffering from economic, social and political deprivation since long time. Poverty and multidimensional deprivation has led people towards vicious cycle of poverty. People with poor access have hard times in eking out a living. In such situations, politicians wish to solve the problem through state intervention in name of social security, allocating periodic incentives in monitory form. However, it may not be sustainable solution as it creates incremental financial burden to the state, which is, sometimes beyond the capacity of developing or least developed countries.
Social security refers its two aspects - protection and promotion. Protection, based on social security, prevents to decline the livelihood standards of people, whereas promotion aspect of social security aims at eradicating the long-term problem faced by people, and hence, it is cited as ambitious aspect of social security. Deprivation is a main attribute of developing and least developing countries. Deprivation is embedded in traditional society in terms of social, political, economic and power to access with resources. Modern state is committed to rooting out such type of deprivation and wish to ensure justice for people. In such situation, people’s responsive governments apply idea of social security as a means to prevent deprivation and vulnerability to deprivation. Latest reports say that about 20 per cent of people in Nepal are living under the poverty line, which is much better situation than previous decade.
Since 1950’s political change, Nepal has been adopting different plans, strategies, actions and activities to eradicate poverty and lift the people out of abject poverty. Among several ideas of government to support people’s livelihood in 1994, the then government of Nepal declared to provide Rs. 100 in old age allowance to each senior citizen aged 75 and above. The provision is first and significant step towards establishing social security arrangements in Nepal.
Successive governments gave continuity to his scheme by lowering age limits and increasing the amount of allowance. With the popularity and effectiveness of this provision, social security provision is extended to Dalits, widows, Karnali people and other economically disadvantaged people. Within 23 years of implementation of social security provision in Nepal, it takes a large fraction of public budget, with government framing some legal provisions. Mandatory provision of social security taxes, establishment of Social Service Fund and its secretariat, banking system indicate that the government has given priority to its management for sustainability.
In developing countries, the idea of social security is related to responsive state dissimilar to developed country. Developing countries ensure the social security to its old aged and classified people based on her/his tax payments to state during his productive age. Hence, in developing countries social security is tied up with productive approach, whereas in developing and underdeveloped countries like Nepal, it is just applied as protective approach. Nepal is expending its significant fraction of public treasury as means of social security, which has limited the public investment for capital formation. At any condition, context and socio-political settings, the expenditure towards social security will be increased. Besides, it takes significant amount of public resources to administrate it. Legal instruments, organisation set-up, staff, infrastructure, monitoring mechanism and audits take lots of time, resources with responsibility to ensure good governance and corruption free system on social security expenditure.
The Constitution of Nepal, 2015 guarantees the rights to health, basic education, clean environment, safe drinking water, sanitation, food and freedom of expression, among others. In such context, state should manage lots of resources and appropriate planning to implement these provisions. Otherwise, it will lose the people’s trust; due to which chances of failure of constitution and state system will be higher. Both the issues and approaches - social security and massive investments - are dedicated to the wellbeing of people. The main differences is only that social security through incentives supports people in present and public investment in social assets will support the people with broad-based and sustainable way.
In fact, the later approach ensures the secured society for people in future too rather than providing social security in present. Thus, the planning and investment priority to ensure basic needs of the people by enhancing their productivity and capacity, while the social security approach gives happiness to the scheduled people in present and make them more dependent and protective.
In countries like Nepal, providing monthly payments as pension to the people seems solution in some extent. It looks small amount for receiver but this is a significant fraction of public fund. For the people, who are already living with their better living standards, the allowance amount does not give any significance contribution to them. It is just like misuse of public funds. Distribution of such social security support with demarcation of poverty line and identification of needy people would be better than flat system based on only age group. In other hand, public fund distributed as social security incentives do not useful to form the capital, and hence such investment does not contribute to the financial growth of country at a macro level.
To sum up, the state shall not make delay in making decision for encouragement of policy, plans, programmes and approaches for building a secured society rather than increasing financial burden on state in name of social security. Politicians, administrators and all related stakeholders should understand and realise that only secured society will ensure social security to the people forever. The idea of social security is being applied by almost countries of world in different way, but it is suggested to ensure secured society for the people of third countries.