This week the Weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad was held in Biratnagar, coinciding with the beginning of the Eastern publication of the Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal from Biratnagar, the capital of State 1, on the occasion of the Constitution Day.
The dialogue centred on the development and prosperity of State 1, with vice chair of the State Planning Commission Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Mayor of Biratnagar Metropolitan City Bhim Parajuli and economist Dr. Bhesh Prasad Dhamala expressing their views with the Sambad team. Excerpts:
Management of human resources, big problem: Pyakurel
State 1 is the mirror of Nepal just as Nepal is the mirror of the world. According to Human Development Indices, State 1 is ahead of other States in terms of literacy, drinking water and irrigation. It is self-reliant in food. Annual food surplus in the State is 300,000 tonnes. Level of civilian consciousness is also high here
We have analysed all these statistics while formulating the state planning so that we can make the State fully self-reliant in five years. We have a goal to increase per capita income to USD 1620 from the current USD 1062 and GDP to Rs. 800 billion from Rs. 500 billion in five years.
If we increase investment in agriculture by 5.5 per cent, industry by 11 per cent and service sector by 16per cent in five years, then our goal can be achieved.
However, the plan we have created will not be sole basis to achieve the set goals. Budget has not been allocated as per the state plan. This weakness must be corrected.
The role of the state government is to coordinate and maintain understanding. It needs to cooperate with the local level and play the role of a bridge with the federal government. The federal government should execute big projects while local level should serve the people in their day-today affairs. However, all three levels of government are unable fulfil their duties as is expected.
We have made the plan to accomplish 82 per cent of the targets. Hence, it is short of 18 per cent of the budget. Negotiations are underway between the Planning Commission and the Council of Ministers to fill up this gap of the budget.
Mid-term spending structure needs to be managed. Based on the median cost structure, the plan consists of 18 to 25 per cent of the doormat plans. These plans are neither dead nor alive for a year. They should be dismissed after one year. Otherwise, the goals of the plan will not be met.
The ministers and chairmen of various committees of the State Assembly have also agreed to this.
Last year, around 60 per cent of the budget was spent although the situation was quite unfavourable for such a high expenditure. Only 40 per cent of the total required employees were available then.
In the area of development, the Department of Roads had to cover four areas. Nine out of 14 districts of the State are in hills and the population there is in negative growth have population in the hilly areas. Yet, we have accomplished that despite having the difficult topography to carry out development activities.
We have a target to increase the expenditure to 82 per cent this fiscal year. But the government has targeted to have 88 per cent expenditure. If that happens, it will be even more effective.
We are preparing to introduce short-term skill development programme to increase the productivity in power sector, industrial land and the labour required for the industry. The industrialists here have committed to increasing production by 25 per cent within six months if we manage these things for them.
We have pushed ahead plans to produce 1500MW of electricity in the province in the next four years. In the coming year, we will be having more electricity than we need.
A land bank will be established to ensure the availability of land. Now a committee has been constituted under the leadership of the Chief Secretary to search the lands. Soon the Land Bank Act will be issued. We are waiting for the federal government to bring the Land Act.
Growth can be accelerated if we work in a planned way. Goals will be met if the programmes are implemented as expected. Similarly, we should be careful while formulating a plan. We need to make a 20-year master plan but periodic plan must be of five years.
The land bank is a concept in the individual possesses the land ownership certificates but their lands will be with the bank. The landowner gets the profits from the production of that land. He also receives land revenue annually. Large agricultural projects are conducted. The income from such projects is managed by expenditure. The proceeds from the profits are distributed to the shareholders as dividends. It is like giving a dividend to a shareholder.
Nepal is now in an urbanisation process. Nepal is one of the fastest urbanised countries in the world. Urbanisation in Nepal has increased to 45 per cent from 20 per cent 15 years ago. So it is time to pull the land from the land. We are not in a position to carry research and introduce the latest technology. However, we should formulate a policy to increase the product.
The first periodic plan that we will issue will have long-term goals. The biggest problem is that someone talks only about production and others only about land. Five things must come together in development. Production, storage and processing should take place in the village. Its marketing and branding should be done in the city. We cannot survive in the market without branding. Ilam tea and milk should be branded. We should not depend on the government alone. The farmers must brand themselves.
The temperature is 12 degree Celsius less than in Birtanagar if we drive 45km north of the highway. Framers rear goats in the mountainous region of Morang like Singha Devi and Bhogatteni. The goats there are grown by consuming herbs but here in Birtanagar we import goats from India. The price of the goats brought from Kyrgyzstan and those reared in Morang should not be the same. There should be a plan to correct this.
Branding should be done by the local government after conducting a lab test. We should not look at only government for these types of works. Branding of Ilam powder, milk and ghee can be done in two months.
Questions are being raised on relevancy of federalism. Civil servants should be loyal to the people. Employees need to be adjusted. They know the law. Political management knows the people. Public administration should be brought under political management.
Still the federal government passes the projects to the state government, but keeps the budget with it. It also holds good plans with it.
Of the two secretaries of the same level, the Secretary of the State Government has to bow own before the secretary of the Federal Government The government must work to correct this.
The biggest problem faced by the State Government is of technical staff. The State Government should be allowed to hire employees on the contact basis until the State Public Service Commission is formed.
There are no Nepali nationals in pure science and research; it is one of reasons for our backwardness. The tax office does not consider the expense on research as and expense. The tax office is under the federal government. Information is lacking. With technology we can do a lot of things right now.
Politicians also became pure pro-government. Those who are in the party do not look back at the people after they get elected by the same people. The party cadres are all the same. They walk after the leaders. In a democracy, people's complaints reach the government through the party. But it is not happening here.
All local levels are connected to our plan. Approach has been matched. However, the difference is that local levels were established a year prior to the creation of State government. We have to make compromises while preparing the state planning. A balance will be maintained between the local levels and in the State.
In one year, the budget allocated to the National Reconstruction Authority will remain as left-over budget and the budget to be allocated to the local level and the state government will increase by 25 per cent. We were instructed to prepare a budget of Rs. 55 billion. But we introduced a budget of s 42 billion considering the availability of the resources. Next year, we will have the resources to introduce a budget of only Rs. 50 billion.
The federal government has allocated Rs. 500,000 for the temples of the districts. Now the State Government should prepare state level plans, local levels local plans and the federal government central level plans. However, the goals of the local level plan should match the state and the planning goals of the province should match the federal government. These issues have been discussed at the Inter-State Council meeting and the National Planning Commission.
There is no lack of resources. We are unable to spend even 50 per cent of the capital budget. The real problem is in the management of human resources. We need to transform ourselves. The federal government is representative of continuity. It is guardian. It must be ready to transfer its jurisdiction to State government and local levels.
We have not faced much obstacle regarding the implementation of federalism. There is a harmony among the Nepali people. It has to be managed. Our state operating system binds the employees themselves, the politicians bind themselves.
In the developed countries, cost, creativity, time are given priority while selecting a project. But here the Financial Comptroller General Office and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority harass those even they have worked honestly. In the name of variation they spend Rs. 200 million to complete a project of Rs. 10 million.
Nothing can be done in lack of resources : Dhamala
The plans are good. But their implementation does not look effective. Concept of development varies. But overall the process is the same. Planning should be made considering the availability of resources. It also requires commitment. Resource management should be a based on planning. We can do nothing in lack of resources. Lack of necessary infrastructure and manpower are other problems.
The national economy should be kept in mind while investing in agriculture. The economy is becoming import-oriented. Balance of Payment (BOP) is also increasing with declining exports. Failure to control imports can lead to dire conditions. The trade deficit may further increase. Governments in all three levels should pay attention towards this. Unless we increase exports, our goals will not be met.
We can reduce the swelling trade deficit by doing small things. Now we are spending millions of rupees to import coriander. If every family grows coriander to meet their own needs, it will help narrow the trade deficit.
In order to increase the productivity of agriculture, it is necessary to encourage tilling of the land rather than the division of land. Structural change is needed in agriculture. Large agricultural projects covering eight to 10 bighas of land should be started. Fragmentation of land should be discouraged. Land should belong to those who till it. Agriculture industry should be set up.
The shareholder should be given shares. It generates profits. Another important thing is that eight of highest peaks are in State 1. Plans are also required to attract foreign tourists. The plan should be such that we will be able to earn and keep foreign dollars here in order to prosper. We can also promote religious sites like India has done.
We need to increase not only the inflow of tourists, their stay duration should also be extended. We have to build cable car in the Himalayan Range and open resorts.
Supply of power should be ensured not only in industry, but also in each home. It helps reduce the import of fuel. If we increase power consumption by producing more electricity, we will be spending less to import fuel and this will help reduce trade deficit.
Market management should be done in the place of production so that the farmers get good price. In Nepal, framers hardly get good price for their products. The middlemen have become dominant. The system in which the farmers get only 25 per cent of the market price of their goods should be brought to an end. They should be equipped with skill and knowledge. Resources should be distributed. The subsidy is not being distributed properly. The villagers are trained to make chocolates and cloths, but those goods are sold in the market. Ultimately, the producers of such goods cannot get proper price for their labour.
There must not be prejudice in development. There must be coordination between all three levels of governments. Coordination is a must to achieve the goal. Division of rights also seems to be flawed. We need to move forward slowly, confusion arises in the early stages of federalism. We should formulate policies based on our experiences.
Employees must support for coordination. Public administration has to function under rules. It should not be under the individuals but under rules and regulations. How did the investment conference bring in investment? There has also been no internal investment. It needs to be thoroughly analysed. If it cannot be improved then development will be at stake. The goal cannot be achieved. There is talk of over-taxation on the investor. We need to find a solution to this. All three levels of governments should be ready to address this problem. If there is no coordination, problems do come. Priority has been the same but we are confused.
We give priority to good governance :Parajuli
Biratnagar Metropolitan City has given top priority to good governance for the development of State 1. Prosperity cannot be achieved without maintaining good governance. Good governance is the basis of prosperity, and I am committed to this. Transparency must be maintained for development. Biratnagar is a city that bred several statesmen and politicians. It has led political movements and economic prosperity. But it has lagged behind in terms of development. We have moved forward with short-term, mid-term and long-term planning. Biratnagar has taken education as a model. We are investing more to educate our citizens. We have also established technical schools. We cannot move forward if the quality of school infrastructure is not developed and maintained in education.
Federalism has not taken a tangible form. The State Assembly has not formulated required laws. Due to this, the local level is operating only on the basis of procedures. We have to work by formulating the Act.
We have succeeded to blacktop 45 kilometres road in two years. We have constructed the bus terminal, Tarani Prasad Communications Village and Shushila Koirala theatre. We are planning to upgrade Koshi Zonal Hospital as a Teaching Hospital. We have also moved forward a flyover construction project.
Prosperity will be impossible in lack of coordination. Prosperity cannot be achieved through the development framework that lacks coordination. There are local level programmes and plans. But the employees are deployed by the federal government. Those employees who come to the local level look for the province. Those who arrive in the State look for the Federal Government Due to over-politicisation, the Federal Government sends the employees whose political ideology does not match the ruling party’s to the local levels. The provinces also have their own problems. Local levels and provinces have not been able to function as government. We also do not get access to the shared rights. The same situation is in education. The education unit is under the Chief District Officer. State bodies have not been transferred. The local level is doing the most work. Thinking should be broadened. The plan of the three tier government matches nowhere. What can be done when the projects of the federal government worth just Rs. 500,000?
In provinces, there are plans of the ministers and their activists. They cannot be obstructed. They are scattered. They can pose a threat to the implementation of federalism. If we want to attract foreign investment, the Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) does not accept our proposal. China is ready to invest Rs. 6 billion for waste management but the IBN has not approved it.
(Prepared by Mahendra Bista, Navaraj Kattel Photographs by Sagar Basnet.)
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