Saturday, 6 March, 2021
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EDITORIAL

Delayed Pride Projects



The COVID-19 pandemic has put a brake on the country’s substantial economic growth of last three years, which stood at an average of 7.3 per cent. Now it is set to decline to 2.1 per cent in the fiscal year 2020/21, according to the World Bank’s estimate. It is no surprise that Nepal’s economy experienced downward spiral, as every human activity has come to an abrupt halt owing to the lockdown and other restrictions imposed to prevent and control the surge of the novel coronavirus. National pride projects have visibly suffered from the COVID-19 fallout. Government agencies responsible to implement them have faced difficulty in managing equipment, materials and human resources during the pandemic. As a result, the big infrastructure projects are incurring huge losses and are unlikely to be completed in time. The Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa was slated to come into operation with the launch of the Visit Nepal Year 2020, but the project is still under construction while the mega tourism campaign has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Nonetheless, coronavirus must not be blamed for the poor performance of pride projects that have not been completed although they began many years back. Some of them had even started about two decades ago and are still facing hurdles. They are missing the deadlines one after another, exposing the inapt handling of the bureaucrats and private contractors. Just look at the West Seti Hydroelectricity Project that is still in the conception phase despite the fact that efforts were made to implement it some 23 years ago. The reservoir-based 1200 MW Budhigandaki Hydel Project got delayed owing to dispute related to land acquisition. The Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) stands out as the bad example of development project which missed many deadlines of completion. It was expected to be ready by the end of this year despite the coronavirus pandemic but the hope of Kathmandu’s residents have again been dashed after the damage of its faulty gate recently.
Some projects which are close to completion are still beset with unintended glitches. For example, Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project had completed over 99 per cent of works three years ago but it has to wait for some more months to generate power, according to the news report carried by this daily. The government had handed over the Kathmandu-Terai Expressway to Nepali Army three years ago after the former failed to find reliable developer. It should have been ready in four years as per the agreement but it has now made only 17 per cent of progress.
It has become imperative to diagnose the root causes behind the inordinate delays in the execution of development projects. As experts point out, poor preparedness, lack of inter-agency coordination, supervision and quality control. In addition, the issues of land acquisition and environment often pose hurdles to the smooth implementation of projects. Likewise, political nexus with non-performing and discredited contractors and weak engineering lead to the compromise in the quality of projects. With a strong government in place, the elected officials must not drag their heels in making recalcitrant bureaucrats and slimy contractors accountable to their actions while demonstrating their own commitment to development and transparency about the fiscal transactions essential to discourage corruption and win public trust. 

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