Nepali Times
Nation
The 90-point plan


DEWAN RAI


KIRAN PANDAY
Infrastructure development, economic reform, social security and law and order were the main focus of the ambitious 90-point plan laid out by the Maoist-led government on Wednesday for the year ahead.

But critics said there were few new ideas for immediate relief to the people from shortages and high prices, and most of the program was a rehashing of long-term goals of previous governments.

Even so, this was the largest and most ambitious plan ever presented by a government in Nepal. Among some of the projects envisaged: a fuel pipeline from Raxaul to Amlekhganj, free secondary education, a 10-year 10,000MW hydropower investment program, and the completion of a road network linking all district headquarters. But there are also pie-in-the-sky type projects like the completion of a Lhasa-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini rail link.

The UML's K P Oli criticised the program as vague and ambitious. "There is nothing wrong with having good intentions, but plans must be realistic," he said. "The government's commitment to multiparty democracy, periodic elections and the rule of law are a few positive aspects."

The NC's Prakash Saran Mahat said the program was a "cut and paste" of previous plans: "In trying to be ambitious, the program does not propose any substantive plan for growth," he said.

Home Minister Bamdeb Gautam was understandably enthusiastic: "It is a program of national consensus, which has incorporated inputs of the coalition parties," he said.

Little progress on any of the large infrastructure projects is likely within the lifetime of this Constituent Assembly, but the plan also revealed a keenness to wrap up the peace process, complete the writing of the new, democratic federal constitution on time, and seek rapid economic growth to generate a major socio-economic transformation within the country as quickly as possible.

The government has adopted the public-private partnership approach for large infrastructure projects, and is to prioritise export industries. High-level boards will be set up under the prime minister's chairmanship to promote PPPs and create an investment-friendly environment. New foreign investment will be welcomed in export industries.

However, continued threats, harassment and extortion of businesses by Maoist-affiliated youth and militant unions made businesses sceptical about the pledge to increase investment.

The government has pledged to address labour grievances, and to deal with worker-management relations. It reiterated a commitment to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It will also set up a raft of other commissions, including one to look into the fate of the disappeared and others to assess the inclusiveness of women and minority groups. As part of its revolutionary land redistribution program, the government will set up yet another commission to look at land productivity.

The CA members are scheduled to debate the plans from 12-14 September. Political parties must register their amendment proposals by Thursday. However, the budget will be presented only after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal returns from his visit to India on 18 September, since Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai is also expected to accompany him.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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