Laxmi Capital News
Road mania grips local levels Over half of budget for road projects

Local level units in Rautahat districthave allocated more budget funds for roads than for any other sector, placingeducation, health and other sectors in the shadow. Katahariya Municipality hasallocated Rs 90 million (over 45 percent), out of a total of Rs 200 millionearmarked for capital spending, for road construction. Over-concentration onroads in budget allocations has undermined the other priorities.

Talking to Republica over the phone,SiyaramKushbaha, mayor of the municipality, said, "More money has beenallotted to roads as per the demand and needs of the localpeople."Kushbaha cited a resource crunch for not being able to prioritizeschools and health care. "However, priority is given to the purchase ofdrugs and equipment for health institutions and mid-day meals for schoolchildren," he added .

Similarly, Ishwarpur Municipality inSarlahi district has set aside Rs 130 million plus (over 50 percent) out of Rs260 million for road construction including blacktopping, bridges and culverts.Allocation for health and education is a mere Rs 49.5 million (20 percent) ofthe total budget.

Manoj Devkota, the mayor , defended thebudget, saying that more money was allocated for road projects to facilitatemobility.

Chief Executive Officer Hom BahadurThapa argued that meeting basic infrastructure needs was their priority.Ishwarpur was declared a municipality in 2016 despite lack of the minimuminfrastructure needed for a town .

The roads are also the most prioritizedsector at local levels in the mountain regions. All wards of AmargadhiMunicipality, Dadheldhura are already linked with roads but roads are again toppriority. The municipality has allotted Rs 60 million for roads out of a totalof Rs 160 million allotted for overall development work for fiscal year2017/18.

FROM LOCAL LEVEL TO CENTEREVERYONE WANTS ROADS

At the heart of the problem is the factthat everyone from local level leaders to political bigwigs at the center givehigh priority to road projects. The federal government has a long history ofallocating huge amounts for thousands of small road projects, mainly under theinfluence of political bigwigs rather than any rationale for building theroads.

TirthaDhakal, joint secretary at theNational Planning Commission, has never found MPs, party leaders andbureaucrats coming with demands other than for roads for their constituenciesand districts in his decade-plus experience at the apex policy making body.

With the first local elections in 2017,the federal government disbursed two types of grants for the local levels. Butthe local levels allocated most of the grants for roads without consideringtheir overall development needs.

Some of the local levels have alsoallotted money from agriculture, livestock and women's development in additionto roads, according to NPC officials. The federal government allotted Rs 5.12billion to local levels for small and medium scale agriculture projects. Butonly Rs 2.66 billion (52 percent) is being spent for the purpose, according tofigures from the Department of Agriculture (DoA).

ROADS ARE HAVEN FOR CORRUPTION

A recent report of the Office of theAuditor General shows that the government spent Rs 32 billion on roads at theeleventh hour last fiscal year, while NPC and the government approved projectsworth Rs 123 billion out of budget for roads. Infrastructure expert Surya RajAcharyasaid that the only motive behind spending taxpayer money on roads in anunplanned fashion was to steal from the state coffers.

Source: MyRepublica, 2ndJune 2018

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