‘New airports, roads key driver for growth’

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Apr 23, 2015-

Infrastructure development, particularly construction of airports and roads, a key to drive the economy, should be the main focus of the upcoming budget, experts and politicians said on Thursday. They stressed that investment in infrastructure is a proven economic engine as it not only drives growth but creates lasting benefits.

National Planning Commission (NPC) Vice-chairman Govinda Raj Pokharel said that the country has only once achieved 7 percent growth in the last six decades, stating that investment in infrastructure is the only means to ensure higher growth.

The NPC vice-chairman added that Nepal should also be able to attract more foreign investors to accelerate growth. “For this, the country needs to publicise its investment climates, potentials and prioritise sectors to alert foreign investors about opportunities,” he said during a pre-budget discussion organised by the NPC.

According to a study, Nepal needs an investment of Rs1,800 billion to maintain the infrastructure gap. Pokharel urged greater participation of the private sector in the infrastructure development, highlighting that their role is vital for development.

On the occasion, Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam bemoaned that Nepal’s infrastructure development was at a crawling pace. “Even after restoration of democracy in 1990, the government failed to prioritise infrastructure development in a plan-wise manner,” he said.

“Although infrastructure development in the hilly region is difficult due to the vast terrain, the pace of development in the Tarai region remains slow as well.”

Giving an instance of the slow progress in airport construction, Prakash Jwala, chairman of Parliamentary Finance Committee, said that the delay in budget disbursement has been hindering infrastructure development.  

“There has been traditional practice of holding discussions on budget by the Parliament and approving it by mid-November.

The procurement process starts by mid-April, when the contractor starts formal work,” Jwala said, adding that such practice has not only been delaying works but also compromises the quality. He highlighted the need to begin development works by mid-December.   

Experts have also pointed out the need for establishing an infrastructure bank to attract foreign direct investment. Bishnu Agrawal, vice-president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries, said that the government should meet the annual

target of infrastructure development with the help of the infrastructure bank.

Swarnim Wagle, a member of the NPC, stressed on the need for improving the quality of infrastructure. “We have mostly been focusing on opening the track rather than constructing long-lasting infrastructure,” he said.

Participants also raised their concerns over poor project study and planning, mainly in the development of transport infrastructure. They urged planners and policy makers to effectively implement development plans if the country is to attain higher economic growth.

Published: 24-04-2015 10:47

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