Full steam ahead

  • PM Dahal should keep his word about implementing national pride projects
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Sep 14, 2016-The sluggish pace of Nepal’s development projects is a perennial problem. But the disappointment is more acute when even the ones considered ‘national pride projects’ suffer a similar fate. 

A report presented by the National Planning Commission to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during on Monday showed that nine of the country’s 21 national pride projects failed to meet even 50 percent of their performance targets in the last fiscal year.

As national pride projects are considered vital for the overall development of the country, the government ensures that they do not face funding problems during their construction phase and the prime minster has the authority to make direct intervention if they encounter obstacles. However, despite such provisions, it is frustrating that almost half the projects could not meet half their targets. 

Performance targets have two components, physical and financial. The former measures the amount of work that needs to be completed within a fiscal year while the latter assesses the amount of budget that needs to be spent on the projects.  

The worst performance was recorded in the 1,200-MW Budhigandaki Hydroelectric Project, which met only 5.1 percent of the physical target and 5 percent of the financial target. It cited lack of experts and permanent officials, delays in land acquisition and extension of compensation to households whose lands have to be acquired, and problems in resettlement and rehabilitation as major obstacles. Similar problems were cited by other projects that failed to meet their targets. But the main reason for underperformance, according to government officials, was the unofficial Indian blockade, which affected the imports of construction materials. 

Even those projects that have made satisfactory progress are unlikely to be completed on time. While some projects have suffered delays due to the destruction caused by last year’s earthquake, others have been mainly beset by political problems. Time was wasted, for example, on rows over whether to allow an Indian company to construct the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track road or finance it through domestic sources.   

The earthquake, Madhes agitation and the unofficial transit embargo all contributed to making last year particularly challenging in terms of implementing development projects. However, this is not the first time such projects have failed to make progress. Successive governments have only paid lip service to national pride projects since the concept was introduced during the prime ministership of Baburam Bhattarai in 2012. The underlying problem is somewhere else. 

The unsatisfactory performance of projects associated with national pride reflects the state’s perfunctory attitude and lacklustre approach to development. Since most of the 21 national pride projects are infrastructure projects, a focus on transport and energy sectors is necessary to facilitate them. Prime Minister Dahal has assured that he would take the lead in monitoring the projects and urged all ministries and state agencies to create an environment that ensures their smooth implementation. Now is the time for him to keep his word.   

Published: 14-09-2016 08:28

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