With a view to achieving rapid economic development of the country, around 21 strategic projects were selected and implemented more than a decade ago. They are widely known as the national pride projects which have potential to bring about transformative changes to the economic and social life of people. They are expected to attract foreign investment, and boost technology, innovation and efficiency essential for the timely execution of mega development works. Moreover, they lay the foundation of the industrial growth, thereby generating jobs and delivering prosperity to people. These pride projects are related to irrigation, hydropower, supply of drinking water, highways, railways, aviation, culture, biodiversity and industrial corridors, among others. Some of them include Sikta Irrigation Project, Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, Budhigandaki Hydropower Project, Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport, Second International Airport, Bara, Pashupati Area Development Project, North-South Koshi Corridor, Kathmandu-Terai Expressway, Melamchi Drinking Water Project and so on.
These projects bear positive implications for the national economy because when the allocated budget is spent on them, it boosts capital spending and fuels the economy. This anticipation is reasonable in the sense that the successive governments have been unable to spend the desired amount of the capital budget. The nation is unlikely to see the pace of infrastructure development until and unless the development budget is massively utilised. However, the track record of the pride projects is not impressive despite the government’s utmost priority to completing them within the stipulated timeframe. As a result, the scenario of capital spending is also dismal.
In the current fiscal year 2019/20, almost 33 per cent of total budget – Rs 102.08 billion – was set aside for implementing the pride projects. Contrary to the expectation, the government had spent only 19 per cent – Rs. 20.4 billion - from Rs. 102.08 billion allotted to the pride projects – by mid-January, according to the news report published in this daily on Saturday. Of the 22 pride projects, six could spend less than 10 per cent of the total allocation, with zero progress in Pashupati Area Development Trust and Nijgadh International Airport. Kathmandu Terai Expressway project is a strategic as it will effectively link the capital city with the southern plains bordering India. But it has spent only 2 per cent of the Rs. 15 billion. Its Detailed Project Report has been recently prepared and it will take some more years to be completed.
Budhigandaki Hydroelectricity Project has witnessed just 7.5 per cent progress in the first half of the current fiscal year. The would-be the largest reservoir-based hydel project is yet to sort out the issues related to land acquisition and compensation to the landowners. In a similar manner, the progress in the implementation of Melamchi Water Supply Project is not satisfactory. Nonetheless, Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectricity Project, Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA), Galchhi-Rasuwagadhi Road and Sikta Irrigation Project are faring well. With the political stability and policy certainty, the development works must gather momentum. Now it is imperative to forger better cooperation and coordination between political leadership, bureaucracy and contracting parties to expedite and complete the projects without further delay.