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Editorial: All eyes on budget

Editorial: All eyes on budget

The government is preparing to summon the summer session of the parliament, or the budget session, from as early as next week. As per the Constitution of Nepal, 2015, the government must bring fiscal budget on May 28.

Except for some bright spots, the Nepali economy is passing through a challenging situation marked by diminishing demand and sluggish growth. Banks, which have lending capacity of over Rs 600bn, are seeing a lack of demand for loans as the private sector is not making new investments. The central bank's efforts to stimulate the economy through monetary easing have not yielded desired success. Purchasing power of consumers is dwindling due to factors such as youth outmigration and the lingering effects of previous interest rate hikes. These developments have eroded the consumption base that fuels economic activity. This has left businesses struggling with unsold inventories and underutilized production capacities. While the central bank has lowered interest rates to historic lows, this has become ineffective as there is not much improvement in consumer demand.  

It is evident that monetary measures alone cannot revive the economy. A combination of both monetary and non-monetary reforms that foster collaboration among the government, central bank, financial institutions and the private sector is what the economy needs. Non-monetary reforms should address structural issues hindering economic growth. Measures to boost employment opportunities can limit the outflow of potential consumers. Simultaneously, initiatives to improve productivity and competitiveness could bolster the private sector's confidence to invest. Furthermore, the government must play a catalytic role through targeted fiscal interventions. Expediting capital expenditure and clearing outstanding payments of construction entrepreneurs can provide an immediate boost to economic activity.

The National Statistics Office has forecast 3.87 percent GDP growth for the current fiscal year, which is more or less similar to the projections made by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. This shows a significant improvement compared to the previous fiscal year.  Addressing the demand-side constraints through a mix of monetary and non-monetary policies is crucial to continue this momentum.