Over 6 million Nepalis under poverty lines: Survey

Analysis of the Right to food and food sovereignty Act 2018, Amnesty International

KATHMANDU, May 28: Over 6 million Nepalis are still living under the poverty line, which is 21.6 percent of Nepal’s population, Finance Ministry has said in a report. The population of Nepal is 28.87 million as of 2017, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Unveiling the Economic Survey 2017-18 at the parliament, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada said despite reduction in poverty over the years, there has not been achievement in the area as expected.

The government has taken a number of measures, including targeted programs to alleviate poverty and create employment opportunities.

The government has been running various income generating activities and small community infrastructure targeting the poor households through Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF), an institution formed to run targeted programs.

According to the Economic Survey, as many as 984,421 poor households have been benefited from the programs launched by PAF in 60 out of 77 districts of the country.

Likewise, 44,810 youths were self-employed in the first eight months of the current fiscal year that began in mid-July 2017 under the Youth and Small Entrepreneur Self Employment Fund.

This fund was created to provide collateral free loans to the poor and unemployed youths to promote self employment among them.

However, due to limited employment opportunities at home, around 4.3 million Nepalis have gone for foreign employment through formal or informal channels, stated the Economic Survey. Around half million workforce enters in the market every year in Nepal.

Khatiwada said that despite continued efforts for development of the country, Nepali economy has continued to witness high level of poverty, low economic growth, high inequality and high unemployment.

According to the Economic Survey, Nepal’s economy is expected to grow by 5.9 percent in the current fiscal year ending in mid-July. Nepal’s average economic growth over the last one decade stood at 4.3 percent.

Tourism has given a boost to the service sector, with record arrivals of 940,000 tourists in 2017. In the first eight months of the current fiscal, electricity generation increased 7.4 percent to 1,045 megawatt.

Recurrent expenditure has increased 37.4 percent to Rs403 billion mainly due to the federal and provincial elections, and resource transfer to the provincial and local governments.

However, the country’s agricultural sector recorded only 2.8 percent growth this fiscal.

According to the survey, public debt has reached Rs843 billion, which is 28 percent of the gross domestic product. Of the total debt, 53.9 percent is foreign loan. Per capita debt reached Rs28,963 this fiscal year, up from Rs24,270 last fiscal. The Balance of Payment deficit is Rs25 billion.

Economic activities currently are moving towards positive direction due to favorable investment climate following the formation of stable government after the recent three-tier elections, the survey report stated.

The government said it is hopeful that the country’s economic activities will get a boost since political stability has created friendly atmosphere for investment.

The government has targeted to achieve double digit economic growth in the next five years after near double digit growth in the initial years, according to its policies and programs unveiled at the parliament on May 21.