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Daring to dream

Daring to dream

There are a few good points in the govern­ment’s Programs and Policies, unveiled on May 21, in what is a precursor to the national budget that will be presented on May 29. One good point is the setting of clear deadlines for big infra­structure projects. For example the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa is to be completed within a year while the Pokhara Regional Internation­al Airport is slated for completion within three years. Such clear timelines will help observers evaluate, in real time, if the government is making steady progress.


These are not the only time-bound promises. The government also envisions close to double-digit eco­nomic growth in the next fiscal and sustained dou­ble-digit growth within five years. Similarly, the average income of a Nepali is to double over the next five years, to over $2,000 from today’s base of $1,004. Progress on this front should also be easy to track as the doubling of income can happen only if the economic growth in each of the next five fiscals hovers around 10 percent.


The government’s backers have termed the new programs and policies ‘visionary’, while critics have dubbed them ‘overambitious’. The critics have a point. For instance it took nine years for the average Nepali’s income to double to $1,004; but this government wants to double it again within five years. Likewise, economic growth over the past two decades has averaged a pal­try four percent; the government aims to take it to 10 percent (or thereabouts) within a year.


There is nothing wrong in dreaming big. After all, no other post-1990 government had the kind of resound­ing mandate that the current left government enjoys. Barring a political catastrophe, it will serve out its five-year term. That is important. Chopping and changing of governments every nine months or so wreaked havoc on the economy. The decade-long Maoist insur­gency proved even more costly. Now, finally, there is a semblance of political stability, which bodes well.


Yet the kind of economic turnaround the left gov­ernment aims for will happen only through sweeping reforms. Cartels of all kinds have to be dismantled. It should be easier for businesses to open and close, and to hire and fire workers. Moreover, big hydro projects should come through on time, and new industries set up to absorb the growing labor force. They won’t hap­pen overnight. Can the ruling Nepal Communist Party display the kind of unity and single-mindedness that will be needed to realize these ambitious goals?