The low spending of development budget in Nepal is not a strange phenomenon. This has been a trend for years despite the fact that all stakeholders, the government, policy makers and political leadership, are aware that poor capital spending slows down the pace of development, hindering the annual growth target. There are scores of development projects, including the national pride projects, which are not faring well. In the past, there was easy excuse to explain the poor performance of projects that was the political instability blamed for frequent changes in the government and bureaucratic leadership. Now it is not possible to create artificial reasons behind any lacklustre development works as the country is under the two-thirds majority government committed to realising the motto of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.
The present government, formed almost two years ago, is also confronting similar problems although its leadership has pulled up its weight to complete the projects within the stipulated timeframe. There was only 20 per cent expenditure of development budget in the first four months period of the current fiscal year. This is not good news for anyone. While chairing an inter-ministerial review meeting at Singha Durbar, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli termed such a scanty expenditure of capital budget as tamasa (ugly show) in the name of development. PM Oli instructed the ministers, secretaries and other government officials to get tough with the contractors who often fail to complete the projects in time. He pulled no punches when he directed them to remove those contractors who can’t complete the physical development work in time. “I would not like to hear again the details of the incomplete projects handled by those same contactors in the next meeting.”
The PM noted that there has been a tendency of awarding around 50 projects to a contractor who has the real capacity of executing only three. He directed the concerned authorities to prepare a report mentioning the term of awarded contractors, the amount of expenditure made so far and estimated time to complete the projects. In yet another important instruction, he asked authorities not to spend budget on those projects which were not included in the government's annual policy, programme and budget. It is true that when the budget is spent on projects, the government faces the fiscal problems, increasing the volume of arrears. It is necessary to ensure the quality of work, follow the Procurement Act and fiscal discipline while granting contracts to the contactors.
It is a challenge for the authorities to discourage the tendency where the same contractors win the many key projects through the political nexus. The politicians must shed their rent-seeking attitude and promote the honest and capable contractors with good reputation. It is high time to improve the working style of bureaucracy and contactors. Failure to do so invites anomalies as well as frustrations among the people. If the government with sweeping mandate fails to do away with discrepancies besetting the development and administration sector, the nation is unlikely to attain inclusive growth, prosperity and happiness.