Oli’s Pursuit Of Development
Ritu Raj Subedi
Even if economically poor, there has been perennial penchant for building a ‘socialist’ society among Nepali political parties. Majority of political parties have shown their allegiance to the socialist philosophy though one may question their capacity and real commitment to realising it. It is no wonder the present communist government, with overwhelming majority in all three-tier governments, has unveiled a series of social and economic schemes as it completes one year in office. Both the Constitution’s vision and party’s election manifesto have impelled the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)-led administration to announce the welfare packages to ensure social justice and social security to the people. It has also announced some ambitious plans related to energy generation and connectivity so as to prove that it has not deviated from the electoral promises.
The Oli government has tried to capture the imagination of Nepalis through the announcement of its long-term social security and development plans. In November last year, it unveiled contribution-based social security scheme. Recently, it announced three ambitious schemes in succession. They are ‘Prime Minister Employment Programme’ (PMEP), establishment of shipping office and ‘Nepal ko Pani Janata ko Lagani, Harek Nepali Bidyutko Share Dhani’ (Water of Nepal for People of Nepal, Each Nepali a Shareholder of Hydropower). Cynics may dispute over the motive, feasibility and success of these plans but they are the attempts of left government to rekindle the hope of Nepalis frustrated by years of frequent government changes, inflation, corruption, and expensive health and education services. Obviously, one may question the economic capacity of the government to implement these pro-people schemes aimed at offsetting negative repercussions of free market economy that has left the majority of populace in the lurch. With the introduction of these welfare schemes, the Oli government has seemingly showed that it is communist administration not only in name but also in action.
So far as the contribution-based social security scheme is concerned, it does not put much stress on the state coffers. As per the plan, the employees have to contribute 11 per cent of their basic salary every month, with their employers adding twenty per cent to it, making total contribution of thirty-one per cent. To be started from May 22 this year, the scheme will mobilise the social security fund established in 2011. It ensures job, health, maternity, family dependency and old age security to the employees. It has now over Rs 19.33 billion collected by levying one per cent security tax on the employees’ salary. Now the amount deducted from the employee’s salary and employers’ contributions will be deposited to this fund to implement the contribution-based social security scheme that includes all employees working in formal sector. There are 922,000 entities that provide jobs to 3.408 million persons. The fund will fetch around Rs 2.5 billion every month from all registered organisations and industries once it comes into operation. However, the scheme does not cover the informal sector where around 90 per cent employees are engaged and they need social protection more than those involved in the formal one. The spirit of socialism-oriented economy can only be realised when the informal workers/employees are brought into the framework of new social security arrangement.
The PMEP is another ambitious package that provides jobs to all citizens aged 18 to 59 years for at least 100 days a year but the potential beneficiaries of this plan have to meet a lot of conditions. The unemployed allowance will be granted to a member of a family that has no member employed for minimum 100 days a year. It has proposed a number of job-generating plans by making use of local labour-intensive technology in infrastructure building, conducting skill development training, providing employment information and consultation, promoting public-private partnership and increasing collaboration among the concerned government agencies. It has selected agriculture, cooperatives and animal development, energy, irrigation and river control, water supply and sanitation, forest and environment, tourism promotion, roads and transport, education and sports, among others, for investment and job creation. The scheme will take off only if it focuses on generating jobs instead of spending the tax payers’ money. As the economy is fuelled by remittances and import revenues, the government does not have much resource. Plus, it needs to spend whopping amount of national income for implementing federalism.
With the announcement of Nepal ko Pani Janata ko Lagani, Harek Nepali Bidyutko Share Dhani’, the government wants to mobilise domestic savings for hydropower development. Water resource is Nepal’s viable wealth but the country has been unable to tap into it. Big hydropower projects are often dragged into controversy owing to investment involving foreign investors. Hydropower development demands huge investment. If the government succeeds to pool enough money from people to realise this scheme, the country will really move towards achieving prosperity and be able to keep undue foreign meddling in the hydro sector at bay.
Opening of shipping office marks Oli’s surrealistic development vision that many of his critics mocked at. Yet, this is not an unrealistic dream. This is an aspiration of landlocked people to ride the waves and make trade and transit smooth and cost-effective. Our imported items have been dearer owing to transit cost. Many landlocked nations have their own ships sailing in the sea fluttering their national flags. Now Nepal has been linked to the sea from both south and northern border. As the works are underway to build waterways for trade and travel, the idea of buying own ship is really impressive. Let’s hope PM Oli’s development vision takes a realistic shape so that Nepalis will see peace and prosperity in their own life time.
Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues