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NC advocates for wealth redistribution, social insurance

  • Nepali Congress election manifesto
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 1, 2017-Nepali Congress, the oldest political party of Nepal, has started advocating for wealth redistribution programmes and social insurance schemes, as it introduces itself as a socialist party through its election manifesto, which envisages creation of a welfare state.

The centre to the left political party has always favoured economic prosperity with social justice. But some of the moves made by it over the years, such as opposition to subsidies, had led many to harbour suspicion on whether the grand-old-party was becoming engaged in centre-right politics. That suspicion has been eliminated by the election manifesto made public by the party on Tuesday for provincial and federal elections scheduled for November 26 and December 7.

The manifesto states that the Nepali Congress “believes in a welfare state” and “the main agenda of its socialist policy is to create a just and equitable society”.

It is normal for a centre-left political party to talk about social equality. And to promote this, the party has said it would create social safety nets so that “every citizen can lead a life of dignity”.

“The state should come to the aid of its citizens as long as government revenue, contributions made by the public, organisational funds and innovative financial instruments can tolerate,” says the election manifesto.

Going through the manifesto, it appears the political party is keen on making maximum use of state mechanisms to promote social equality. What is missing is assurance of equal opportunity to promote social equality. Many able and qualified people in the country are currently frustrated because opportunities are not given on the basis of merit but on the basis of influence and “connections”. This has forced many to lag behind despite being capable. The party has failed to touch upon this issue. The party has, however, talked in length about wealth redistribution programmes and social insurance schemes to rope in every citizen to the social safety net. It has identified direct cash transfers, subsidy on public services and goods, and minimum employment guarantee provision as some of the ways to redistribute wealth. It has also said contributory programmes, such as health and crop insurance, aimed at minimising risks would be introduced as part of social insurance schemes. These are tempting offers. But how can the state fund all these programmes every year for which hundreds of billions of rupees might be needed?

The NC manifesto says: by rapidly raising economic output. The political party says it would increase the size of economy by almost four-fold to Rs10 trillion in the next 10 years if it is allowed to take the driving seat of the government after the provincial and federal elections.

To meet that economic output target, which appears ambitious, the party has said it would focus on: foreign direct investment, development of transport, energy and manufacturing sectors, and promotion of tourism and agricultural sectors.

The party intends to attract foreign direct investment equivalent to 5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), or Rs100 billion to Rs500 billion, per year. It also intends to raise the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the GDP to 15 percent in the next 10 years, from existing 5 percent, and link domestic manufacturers to the international supply chain.

To support the manufacturing sector, Nepali Congress intends to increase installed capacity of hydroelectric projects in Nepal to over 15,000 MW in the next 10 years from less than 1,000 MW at present. “Generation of this quantum of electricity will make Nepal an environmental friendly economy based on cent-percent clean energy,” says the manifesto, adding, “The power generated in Nepal will also be exported.”

Nepali Congress also intends to build over 1,000 km of expressways of four to six lanes, over 500 km of railway line, over 50,000 km of black-topped road, and five international airports in the next 10 years. The new international airports, according to the party, will also help Nepal to bring in around 3.2 million foreign tourists every year. “These tourists will provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to over 5 million people in the tourism industry,” says the manifesto.

Among others, the party intends to provide irrigation facility to over 1.8 million hectares of arable land in Tarai-Madhes round the year to make Nepal self-reliant in production of major crops and double agricultural productivity.

These efforts will reduce the portion of population living under the poverty line to 3 percent in the next 10 years from over 20 percent of present, says the manifesto of the party, whose “major objective is to eliminate poverty”.

Published: 01-11-2017 08:32

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