Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poverty severe in Province 6 and 2

Province number 6 and 2 have severe poverty among six federal provinces that are under discussion among the political parties.
Eight eastern Tarai districts, which were affected by the Tarai Movement of 2007, fall in Province number 2, whereas all the districts in Province number 6, which are demanding unified-far west, are far below the national poverty level.
According to Nepal Living Standard Survey (NLSS) 2010-11, some 25.2 per cent of the total population of the country is below poverty line. Forty-two districts – out of the 75 districts – of the country fall under the poverty line, according to the survey.
Out of eight districts in Province number 2, six fall below the poverty line, whereas all the 19 districts in Province number 6 fall below poverty line.
According to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), a person having average income below Rs 19,261 is defined as poor. A person earning under Rs 53 per day comes under national poverty line, as per the Nepal Living Standard Survey 2010-11 conducted by the CBS.
Province number 1 is the richest compared to other provinces. Only 17.96 per cent of the population of Province number 1 is below poverty line.
Similarly, 20.33 per cent of population in Province number 3 falls under the poverty line, whereas some 19.21 per cent of the population falls under poverty line in Province number 4 and 25.64 per cent of the population of Province number 5 are below the poverty line.
But Province number 2 has 27.95 per cent of population under poverty line and Province number 6 has 42.23 of the population – the highest among six provinces – under the poverty line.
Economist Keshav Acharya blames short-sightedness of political leaders for unscientific demarcation of federal provinces. "Political leaders have federated the country not on the basis of their economic strength and viability but for their own benefits,” he said, adding that the leaders just want to have their political career secured, not the country’s future.
Likewise, Nepal Small Area Estimates of Poverty-2011 report also indicates that districts in Province number 2 have not fared well economically in recent past. Of the total 25 prosperous districts a decade ago, some 11 – Parsa, Dhanusha, Saptari, Siraha, Bara, Rautahat, Manang, Myagdi and Jumla – have fallen down to the poorest category. Parsa, Dhanusha, Saptari, Siraha, Bara, Rautahat are among the eight districts of Province number 2. The Tarai-Madhesh Movement of 2007 and the political apathy of Tarai-Madhesh leaders have damaged economy of these districts as they have fallen from prosperous districts' category to the poorest in a decade, especially after Tarai-Madhesh Movement in 2007.
Kathmandu was the most prosperous district according to Nepal Small Estimates of Poverty-2001. But Nepal Small Estimates of Poverty-2011 report states that Kaski is the most prosperous district of the country, whereas Bajura is the poorest.
The Nepal Small Estimates of Poverty-2011 study conducted by CBS with technical assistance of World Bank has not only mapped poverty in small areas across the country but also mapped the gap between rich and poor and severity of poverty in all 75 districts.
Despite having huge natural resources and immense tourism potential, all the 19 districts of Province number 6 are under the poverty line. According to Acharya, all the castes in Province number 6 are poor compared to other districts, but in Province number 2 poverty concentration is higher in lower castes. "The concentration of poverty is higher in lower castes in Tarai-Madhesh," he said, explaining that the Hills lower caste are better off compared to Tarai-Madhesh lower caste populace also due to political indifference.
Not only poverty, rich-poor gap and severity of poverty is also higher in both Provinces 2 and 6.
According to Nepal Small Area Estimates of Poverty- 2011 report, Bajura is the poorest district – in the country – with 64.1 per cent people under poverty line, followed by Kalikot (58 per cent), Bajhang (57 per cent), Humla (56 per cent) and Darchula (53 per cent). All the poorest five districts fall in Province number 6.
Likewise, Saptari, which is in Province number 2, is the poorest district in Tarai-Madhesh. Some 39.5 per cent of Saptari populace earns less than Rs 53 in a day making the lives of Tarai-Madhesh people harder.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

NPC mulling seven-year 14th plan

National Planning Commission (NPC) is mulling to make 14th 'five-year' plan seven year long.
During discussions on the Approach Paper for the 14th periodic plan today, some planning commission members proposed that the plan – that creates a structure, picks priority areas and sets targets for the country's economic development – be made a seven-year-long one for this time, according to planning commission vice chair Dr Govind Raj Pokharel.
"We have started discussions on the approach paper for the 14th plan from today," he said, adding that different members had put forward varied opinions.
The 14th periodic plan will start from the next fiscal year 2016-17.
Since, Nepal will have seven years to graduate to developing country from current Least Developed Country (LDC) status, some members proposed that we take this into account and align the periodic plan accordingly, Pokharel added.
Nepal is planning to graduate from its current LDC status to a developing country status by 2022.
Earlier, the planning commission had prepared Three-Year Interim Plans thrice due to prolonged political transition. The planning commission had brought three-year interim plans to align with constitution making process from the Constituent Assembly (CA). But historically, planning commission has been bringing five-year plan since almost six decades. But the planning commission has brought three year interim plans thrice since the second political movement of 2008.
The third Three-Year Interim plan (2013-14 to 2015-16) – also the 13th plan – aimed at preparing groundwork for Nepal to graduate to developing country status in the next 10 years from 2013 to 2022.
Though Nepal will technically graduate to developing country before 2022 – as it has already met two of the three criterion set for graduation – its sustainability has been under question, especially after the devastating earthquake of April 25, May 12  and series of aftershocks.
The earthquake floored many buildings – including world heritage sites, public buildings, schools, police posts and important infrastructure in addition to private buildings – pushing as many as a million people into poverty, according to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report.
Out of the three criterion set by the United Nations Committee for Development Policy, Nepal has already met two – Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) and Human Assets Index (HAI) – graduate to developing country. But it cannot meet per capita GNI threshold.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Arniko highway reopens after over three-month

The Araniko Highway – that links Nepal with northern neighbour – reopened today after being blocked for more than 100 days.
The 114-km highway – which suffered severe damage due to the landslides triggered by the torrential rainfall after the devastating earthquakes on April 25 – reopened after five-day joint operation of Chinese armed police officers and the Nepali Army, police and Armed Police Force.
Addressing a reopening ceremony here in Kathmandu foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said that the reopening of the highway has provided a deep sense of relief as it will facilitate smooth movement of vehicles that will help revive trade and tourism between the two countries.
"The highway connects the two countries," he said, adding that the government highly appreciates the dedication and hard work of the armed police officers in making this operation successful in a very short period of time.
The Chinese team came to Nepal on August 1 to clear the 37-km Tatopani-Khadichaur stretch of the highway. China had dispatched 100 armed police officers, after Nepal requested China for help. Earlier, it was estimated to take around 20 days, but the joint team cleared 41 spot of blockades within five days.
Chinese ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai, on the occasion, said that China is willing to go all out to help Nepal in its reconstruction efforts. "Natural disasters like earthquakes and landslides go beyond the border," he said, adding that the Chinese people sympathise with Nepal's sufferings in the earthquakes and their aftermath.
Since last over 100 days, the imports from China could not reach Kathmandu directly through Arniko Highway due to clockades. The blockades on the section of Nepal-China inland route has forced traders to import the goods through Kolkata port – paying higher transportation costs – via India. The higher transportation cost has pushed the prices of the goods up. The traders said that the current situation, if continues, the prices are bound to rise this festive season. Nepal imports different goods including readymade garment, footwears, cosmetics, machinery parts and hardware products, fruits and electronics, from China.
The prices of Chinese goods will go up also as another trade route – Rasuwagadhi – between the two countries – that was formally opened on December 2, 2014 – has been closed lately. 
According to Nepal Trans-Himalayan Border Commerce Association, there were some 400 to 500 containers laden with goods along Nepal-China border.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kathmandu-Dhaka direct bus service on cards

Nepal and Bangladesh have agreed to start passenger bus service between Kathmandu and Dhaka.
Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi held discussion with minister for Road Transport and Bridges of Bangladesh Obaidul Quader in Kathmandu yesterday regarding passenger bus service between the two cities in the South Asian countries. 
Quader is in Kathmandu for his two-day visit since yesterday.
They also discussed about implementation of Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) within next January. Similarly, the two ministers also agreed to hold a car rally between four countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – next October, targeting implementation of the Motor Vehicle Agreement. Likewise, a joint-secretary level meeting will be held in Dhaka in the second week of September to finalise the necessary protocol of the agreement.
The two ministers also decided to advance the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. The agreement was supposed to be signed during SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu in November last year. But the signing was postponed at the last moment due to some reservation of Pakistan.
The SAARC Secretariat is organising a meeting of SAARC transport ministers in September in Kathmandu to finalise the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. SAARC region is among the least connected blocs in the world. It has also been affecting intra-regional trade. The intra-regional trade in South Asia stands at around five per cent due largely to low connectivity.
Nidhi, on the occasion, thanked Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for sending relief goods to Nepal immediately after the devastating earthquake of April 25 and May 12.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Constitution sans economic freedom will ignite conflict

Economists and entrepreneurs have said that constitution sans economic freedom will fuel social unrest in the country.
Asking lawmakers to replace 'socialism' in the draft constitution to avoid another conflict, they claimed that the country will see another revolution - due to increased rich-poor gap - if the economic issues in draft constitution are approved as it is.
The constitution must ensure economic freedom to every citizen, if the country aspires to become prosperous, according to president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Pashupati Muraraka.
"Instead of socialism-oriented economy, the constitution must clearly spell liberal market economy," he said, adding that the draft has to replace 'socialism' with 'liberal economy' that can ensure greater economic freedom by creating opportunity and an improved quality of life. He further added that economic freedom will ensure right to choose how to produce, sell, and use your own resources respecting others' rights to do the same. "Only the economic freedom can drive the nation to prosperity."
Without engaging a person in production, a country cannot transform economically. For a person to engage in economic activities freely, the constitution must ensure economic freedom. The countries that are economically developed have adopted economic freedom ensuring the involvement of their citizens in production and sale. That has not only increased their income, but also improved their living standard and overall human development.
However, the draft has, by spelling socialism, back-tracked the liberal economic orientation that the country has been practicing post-1990, Muraraka suspected. As the draft constitution has repeatedly highlighted cooperatives instead of encouraging private sector, his doubt could be genuine. The private sector is indeed suspicious on what the political parties are by giving up the time-tested liberal economic policy.
The draft has created confusion by stating 'socialism-oriented economy' and private sector too, according to economist KeshabAcharya. Saying that the draft has mixed both private sector and socialism, creating more confusion, he said that the political parties might have made 'socialism' a meeting point as they follow different ideology. "It might have made their task easy, but country will have to pay for their convenience."
He suggested replacing 'socialism' with 'welfare state with economic freedom' that cannot only save from wasting many pages in the constitution but also clarifies where the nation is heading toward.
Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC) President Rajesh Kazi Shrestha also opined that the draft has undermined private sector as it gives priority to cooperatives and socialism.
Likewise, Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) president Narendra Basnyat said that only the private sector-friendly constitution can institutionalise political achievements and economic development.
National Planning Commission (NPC) member Dr Chandra Mani Adhikari seconded his thought. "Leaders from different political ideologies have compromised on socialism without defining it," he said, adding, "Since there is problem in both liberal market economy and socialism, the word 'socialism' should be replaced with 'progressive capitalism." Otherwise, it will create more confusion, he added.