There is no doubt that the nation is going through a rough patch, especially economically. While those who have good jobs and a healthy income may not be suffering much, the general public are feeling a pinch just to make normal expenditures to make ends meet for their daily existence.
Therefore, it was some sort of a relief to hear the new budget estimate presented by the Finance Minister Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, where he has strongly emphasised on austerity measures and also strict belt tightening on government expenditures.
This author is no expert on the intricacies of a nation’s economy or the figures and data that come attached with it, he only knows that the budget is of some trillion rupees which is lesser than the budget estimate of earlier days. He also understands that the government spending on things like perks and such facilities which the majority of the people don’t have access to, must be cut down. After all, we have repeatedly been told that the present political setup is for the sovereign people and it is for their interest that all the political parties are working for.
The people of this country deserve a better life and are also assured of living in an economically secure and comfortable environment. It is totally in the hands of the policy-makers to ensure that the cherished dreams of the common public are fulfilled through sound programmes. If for some time we have to live with austerity in all sectors, so be it, as long as the people don’t have to suffer and seek other avenues to make a better income. With the present budget, the government has taken a bold step forward and if such a commitment is followed in the future, the economic troubles of this country will one day end and the Nepali people will not have to leave their homeland just to get better jobs and a bit more income.
Yes, many people have suffered and many, whether while protesting or while doing the work of the government have also lost their lives. No doubt, the sympathy of all normal people is with them and their families and we also understand the distress they have had to bear while losing their dear and near ones. But the saddest thing is, the majority of the general populace has also had to suffer and very few people, including our close foreign friends, seem to care little about these difficulties. So in spite of negative comments, this budget has at least tried to bolster the morale of the people and straighten out the bulky budgets we saw in the past, which the nation and the people could hardly afford.
But to leave aside the negative points with which we have to live, there are also many positive factors which can not only boost our sagging economy, but also bring prosperity for many. For example, we have ample hydropower resources, we also have a thriving tourism industry which can be bettered to a large extent with better public and private cooperation. In fact, tourism is a real win-win situation for Nepal, if we have sound policies and the private sector also chips in to help the government and not only look after its own profits. Besides many other sectors, if only the two above mentioned fields are nurtured well by both the government and the private sector, Nepal needs to look nowhere else for its development needs. But for now, it does need the help from outside to improve its infrastructure and also contribute in making Kathmandu a hub for tourists who love to come here. For this, of course, we need better hotels, roads, airports and an environment where both the high spending and budget tourists can stay in comfort.
Apart from encouraging local production, decreasing interest rates and boosting exports, we could steadily make our economy strong through our own resources. No youth then will be compelled to go abroad for job opportunities and better earnings. Furthermore, our country always boasted about the fact that it had a strong agriculture base, but now much land is standing fallow because of lack of hands to till them. Up until a few decades ago, Nepal used to export agricultural products to others, but now we have to even import goods like rice and lentils. We import cooking oil and also vegetables, which was unimaginable before. Nepal is a country with a difficult terrain, but every problem here is soluble. We just need the right policies and we are seeing some light in a dark tunnel with the just announced budget. But similar moves have to be made by any new government or whoever becomes the Finance Minister in the future.
People’s interest first
Many sectors in our country and also individuals may be dependent on foreign ‘helping hands’, but all such personal greed will be downgraded to a large extent if our own economy is strong. For this to happen, we need more visionary leaders and bureaucrats who strictly abide by government rules. Favouritism, nepotism and personal greed must be thrown out and each and every person in high post must think of the country’s and people’s interest first.
If the country is robust economically, it is out of question for any outside interference in issues of national interests. Therefore, we must not only encourage sincere leaders, but also help them in their efforts to make a better Nepal, where we don’t have to hear or read of thousands of our own people going abroad and deserting their country just because of the poverty which is grappling Nepal by its throat and making life difficult for hundreds of thousands of people all across this otherwise tranquil and naturally rich nation.
(The author is a former chief editor of this daily.)