The 15th Plan And Implementation
The National Development Board has passed the concept paper for the 15th periodic plan with a 25-year vision. After endorsement by the Cabinet, the plan will come into effect from next fiscal year. The 15th plan has significance of its own as it is the first periodic plan being implemented by the federal government with a view to materialising the much-touted slogan of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. In fact, since it came to power in February 2018, the present government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has accentuated prosperity as its overarching goal.
Harking back to the periodic plans implemented in Nepal since 2013 BS, the goals encapsulated in the plans could not be achieved. Consequently, the face of the country has not changed much. Even the periodic plans launched by the successive governments since the advent of multi-party democracy have not produced any tangible results. In fact, at the time political instability, the decade-long Maoist insurgency and the transition period played havoc with development planning and other sectors of the economy. Now, there is no such situation. There is the federal government at the centre, and seven provinces and 753 local units. Further, it is much easier for the federal government to work for development as it has a two-thirds majority. Even six out of the seven provinces have governments dominated by the ruling party, the Nepal Communist Party.
The concept paper has envisioned drastic economic growth in five years. As against the economic growth of 5.9 per cent during the last fiscal year, it has been projected to reach 10.3 per cent at the end of the 15th periodic plan with the average growth of 9.6 per cent during the plan period. The government has set the target of attaining over 7 per cent economic growth by the end of this fiscal year. However, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have put economic growth at around 6 per cent. It has also been targeted to attain 10.5 per cent economic growth in 25 years. Attaining double-digit economic growth year after year constantly is a tough proposition. Even highly developed countries cannot achieve this. However, for a least developed country like Nepal which has intended to become a developing country by 2022 AD, a middle-income country by 2030 AD and a high-income country by 2043 AD, it is not possible to notch up its objectives at the current rate of economic growth. A leap forward in economic growth is, therefore, a sine qua non.
The concept paper has set a target of reducing absolute poverty from the current level of 18.7 per cent to 13 per cent by the end of the 15th periodic plan. Likewise, it aims at reducing the percentage of people reeling under multi-dimensional poverty from 28.6 per cent to 14 per cent. What is more, there is a target of completely eliminating poverty from the country in 25 years, which seems to be out of the question. Regarding per capita income, it is aimed at achieving USD 1,600 per capita income by the end of the 15th periodic plan and a whopping USD 12,100 in 25 years from now. These objectives are highly ambitious and require constant and concerted efforts from the government, private sector and other stakeholders.
The government is planning to spend a huge amount of Rs. 9,246 billion during the 15th plan period with a focus on improving the industrial sector. The contribution of the industrial sector will be increased to 19.1 per cent from 14.2 per cent (last fiscal year), that of the agriculture, forest and mine sector will be reduced to 23 per cent from 28.2 per cent (last fiscal year) and that of the service sector will be increased to 58.7 per cent from 57.6 per cent (last fiscal year). In a liberal and open-market economy, the role of the private sector cannot be under estimated. The government and the private sector should go hand in hand to make any development plan successful. Following this spirit of development planning, the government has involved the private sector so much so that the private sector will cover 55.5 per cent of the total investment, whereas the government will bear 39.1 per cent with the remaining 5.4 per cent going to the cooperative sector.
The government says that it has spent its first one year in formulating laws and policies. No tangible progress has been made till now since the government was installed last year. However, some schemes like the Social Security Scheme and the Prime Minister Employment Program are in the process of being implemented. The 15th periodic plan which begins from next fiscal year will be a crucible for the government. But if the government, which is expected to last a full term, has the willpower and shows the determination to complete any development plan at any cost, it will not be impossible for the 15th periodic plan to materialise. However, the government should pay heed to certain factors while executing development projects.
The government should learn lessons from the plight of development projects being implemented at present. The government should come down heavily on the contractors and others who sh ow flippant behaviour towards completing the projects in time. A strong monitoring mechanism should be in place to ensure that such projects are completed in time. Besides, a strong punitive mechanism will discourage financial indiscipline choke off the culture of corruption flourishing in the country.
The success of the 15th periodic plan is tied up with the lot of the people who have been anticipating better living standards since the reinstatement of multi-party democracy and who have been deceived till now at the hands of cunning governments and political leaders. The people have now grown highly conscious and are watching every move of the government.
(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000)