Watch out

Feb 14, 2019-

Last August, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security registered the Right to Employment Bill at the Parliament Secretariat. The proposed legislation guarantees the right to employment of each citizen. Following up on that, the government is rolling out a scheme that will guarantee minimum days of employment for citizens in a move that aims to deal with unemployment and discourage labour migration from the country. This piece of legislation, along with plans to get the ball rolling, definitely reaffirms Nepal as a welfare state just like the ruling communist party has envisioned.

The Prime Minister Employment Programme is also the first of its kind intervention from the government’s side to create jobs. Ensuring justice to the very section of society which had until then remained largely ignored and sidelined is a welcome move. But like every other plan we come across, whether this will actually work to uplift the poor and help reduce poverty and discourage labour migration will depend upon its execution mechanism.

The 100 days employment programme seems to have taken a leaf out of India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. This act is basically a job guarantee scheme for rural Indians that provides ‘100 days of paid employment in every financial year to adult members of any household willing to do unskilled manual work’. Our plan is similar. In fact, the Right to Employment Bill reads, “If the government fails to provide minimum employment to an unemployed person listed in the centre, he/she shall be entitled to an amount equivalent to 50 percent of the minimum salary of 100 days as prescribed by the ministry in a fiscal.”

No doubt, programmes like this are designed to address the poorest segment of society. The idea is that investing in human capital will, in the long run, help produce a reduction in poverty. Perhaps. But achieving so warrants planning and a dedication to make the scheme a success on a scale never seen before. For example, in India MGNREGA was initially filled with with malpractices like fudging of muster rolls, siphoning off money by local represenatatives, and high administrative costs.

The central governmental outlay for the scheme is Rs3.10 billion as per the finance minister’s budget statement 2018-19. If the scheme is poorly implemented, it will definitely run the danger of mismanagement of funds and increase corruption. Also, although we have entered a federal setup, federalism is yet to be institutionalised fully. There is confusion regarding the delegation of power and the degree of autonomy between the centre and the provinces. This uncertainly will adversely impact the scheme’s implementation too. Should the government fail to engage in proper planning, create adequate capacity of functionaries and devise a proper monitoring mechanism for smooth functioning of the scheme, it will only prove to be a populist measure that will end up serving only a few party loyalists. This is something the government should be cognizant of.

Published: 14-02-2019 12:21

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