Finance Minister Badri Prasad Shrestha has recently unveiled the so-called "Economic Reforms Program (ERP) 2002" on behalf of the Chand government, which was formed amid constitutional and political controversy. The program comes at a time when the country's economic crisis has deepened, and all sectors of the economy are faring badly. The budgetary position in the first three months of the current fiscal year suggests that development expenditure is likely to be less than 30 percent of the initial outlay planned. Revenue mobilisation as well as mobilisation and utilisation of foreign aid have weakened.
There's really nothing new in the ERP. Previous governments have repeatedly talked about reforming the bureaucracy, managing expenditure, and so on. There are no concrete programs to address the problems faced by Nepali industries or offer the private sector any relief. The only novel idea in the new program is limiting the prime minister's delegation to nine.
But the government has also announced several policy level and long-term programs, violating its scope and mandate. Liquidating or privatising state-owned enterprises, involving the private sector in the import and distribution of petroleum products, etc, are significant issues that cannot be decided by this government without proper studies being carried out. The government seems to be conspiring to take away workers' rights guaranteed in existing Acts through unilateral amendments and ordinances.
Shrestha announced the observance of a "plan holiday" and the introduction of a special package to rescue the economy from its present crisis. But now he also says that the 10th Five Year Plan will be made public by December. How can a government that does not have the mandate of the people do this, especially when there are already misleading attempts to suggest that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Program and the Tenth Plan are the same thing.
The ERP seems part of the government's conspiracy to stay in office as long as possible. There is no chance of getting the country out of the present economic crisis unless a new government is elected to office with a mandate to modernise the country and transform the Nepali economy.