Now the entire globe has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the human civilisation has literally come to a standstill. In such situation, the government will be presenting its budget for the coming fiscal year shortly. All of us are speculating the nature of the upcoming budget and are eagerly waiting to see it. Our primary focus should be firmly set upon saving the lives of our people from this pandemic and secondly on tackling hunger and famine that may arise in the aftermath of this pandemic. The traditional mode of agriculture being practiced in Nepal could never really make any meaningful contribution to the national economy whereas both commerce and trade are in a downward spiral. Lack of concrete planning on the modality of development has cast dark clouds over our aspirations of a peaceful and prosperous Nepal whilst all our abundant natural resources go to waste. We are unable to come up with plans to take the country out of this slump and crisis. All the different facets of the Nepali socio-political domain seems to be at odds when it comes to the question of laying foundation for socialism as envisioned by our constitution. It is necessary for the budget to put strong emphasis on solving all the problems faced by the nation at the moment, extending a helping hand to all the citizens in need. The Covid-19 virus has taken the ugly form of a global pandemic and during this health crisis, saving the lives of its people should be of the utmost priority and the budget should be drawn up accordingly. The state should take necessary steps to exponentially increase the number of quarantine centres and ramp up testing nationwide. Hence, the budget should allocate sufficient fund for its implementation. It is clear that under developed nation like ours will most certainly face possible predicament of famine and starvation. Though we possess vast amounts of arable land and majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, the stark reality is that we’re unable to meet our domestic demands resulting in import of food worth billions of rupees annually. The government should move to build food storage units in all the provincial capitals and headquarters of the respective districts. The government should also gradually resume trade, commerce and major construction projects by carefully addressing the risk of contamination such as wearing surgical masks, gloves and maintaining social distance. The ongoing pandemic will put an end to the trend of Nepali youth migrating for employment. Large numbers of Nepali workers overseas are predicted to return and it is the state’s responsibility to ensure their welfare and provide them employment upon their return. With economists all over the world predicting the current economic order to collapse, we should brace ourselves for a long and arduous period ahead. Unlike any war or natural calamity, this pandemic is unknowns and it is impossible to put a time frame when will it end. The mood gloomy in the Nepali business community with economic meltdown looming in horizon. Thus, the budget should set aside resources to encourage business fraternity and to sustain the national economy. Due to the pandemic, Nepal was compelled to revise its economic growth to approximately 2 per cent instead of the prior forecast of around 7 per cent. In such times, the budget should prioritise production by encouraging farmers to produce native products. The pandemic is likely prove to be an economic obstacle for an under developed nation like Nepal. We must utilise our plentiful natural resources and cultivate the arable land. We should move ahead with nation-wide irrigation system, incentives for farmers and timely completion of major hydro power projects. It is estimated that over 6 million Nepalis have left the country seeking employment abroad and around seven million workers are still in the country. According to a study of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), over 77 per cent of Nepali workers overseas have expressed their desire to return home. Hence the upcoming budget should pay special attention to the issue of the returning migrant workers and build a framework to utilise the skills they learnt while working abroad. Majority of workers in Nepal have lost their livelihood due to this pandemic and are completely helpless during this lockdown. The budget should allocate sufficient funds to provide relief packages to the hardest hit populace. Both the public and private entities should work in unison to ensure that these relief packages reach to all the affected people. The whole nation is flabbergasted by the recent border encroachment of Nepal by India. Anyone who understands our history can see that an overhaul of Indo-Nepal ties is long overdue. The Nepali government should mobilise all its diplomatic channels to resolve the issue. Thus, the upcoming budget should play its role in strengthening national unity irrespective of political ideologies and galvanise the whole nation to safeguard the dignity of our motherland. All of us should rally behind the nation’s aspiration of ‘Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal’ and work hand in hand to lay the foundation for socialism as ideated by our constitution. Saving the lives of Nepali people should outweigh any other priorities in the upcoming budget and the government should fully employ all its state mechanisms towards that end. Additionally, all our natural resources should be put to optimal use to further expedite our economic progress. National unity is our most potent power whether it is for fighting against a pandemic like COVID-19 or safeguarding our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. To wrap up, the upcoming budget should unite all Nepalis and act as a catalyst on our great march towards a peaceful, prosperous and dignified Nepal whilst laying the foundation for socialism.
(The author is the central committee member of the World Federation of Trade Unions.)