NPC recommends formulation of Act to define nat’l pride projectsThe National Planning Commission (NPC), the apex body that frames the government’s development policies and programmes, has recommended that an Act be formulated to define projects of national pride, as it would legally bind authorities to accord certain concessions to such projects and ease their selection process.
The National Planning Commission (NPC), the apex body that frames the government’s development policies and programmes, has recommended that an Act be formulated to define projects of national pride, as it would legally bind authorities to accord certain concessions to such projects and ease their selection process.
Such a law could be in the form of a specialised Act related to projects of national pride, or embedded in a broader law on execution of development programmes, says a report prepared by a committee headed by NPC Member Swarnim Wagle.
The Wagle-led committee was formed in January as per the instruction issued by the then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during the 38th meeting of the National Development Action Committee, which is attended by all government ministers and secretaries. The then PM had issued the instruction after hearing complaints about delay in implementation of projects of national pride.
“We hope recommendations laid by the committee will be heeded so that projects of national pride could be selected on the basis of merit and they do not face hurdles in implementation,” said Wagle.
The concept of national pride project was first introduced in 2012 in a bid to expedite construction of projects considered crucial for the country’s overall development.
Since then, 21 projects have been selected. They include four irrigation projects, three hydropower projects, three international airport projects, six roads projects, an electric railway project, a drinking water project, two projects aimed at promoting holy sites of Pashupati and Lumbini, and an environment conservation project.
Development of all these projects, according to experts, could completely change the face of the country and help Nepal gear up for higher trajectory of economic growth.
Yet, the government, till date, has not framed any clear-cut criteria for selection of national pride projects. As a result, the label of ‘national pride’ is being put on projects through Cabinet decisions, which, many say, is an ad-hoc process.
The report prepared by the Wagle-led committee has defined projects of national
pride as national, time-bound initiatives that are deemed by the government to be transformative in terms of the economic, social, cultural or environmental impact they would have on the quality of lives and the collective identity of the people of Nepal.
These projects, according to the report, could be proposed by government agencies, the private sector or civil society organisations. High priority will be accorded to projects that will be implemented under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.
The proposed projects would then be appraised based on merit, says the report. For instance, projects of national pride should be of strategic importance, adds the report. These projects should also deliver unique economic, social, cultural or environmental values to the public. Also, the projects should be affordable and technologies used in the project should be “known, tested and available”. Lastly, the projects should be executable, and authorities should be able to monitor and evaluate their progress.
If the projects meet these conditions a detailed project report should then be framed. The NPC would then conduct an independent review and appraise the project’s feasibility rigorously, says the report, adding, a technical handbook on project appraisal and evaluation will be prepared by the NPC.
The NPC will basically look at two things before labelling the projects ‘national pride’. First, whether the objective of building the project is consistent with long-term national and sectoral plans and vision. Second, whether the project is transformative in the nation’s economic, social, cultural or environmental sphere.
“If proposed projects are fundamentally misaligned with national priorities, they will be rejected within one month,” says the report. “If broad goals of proposed projects support long-term national and sectoral goals, the NPC will take a maximum of 12 calendar months to complete all appraisals and declare those schemes projects of national pride, or reject them.”
These decisions, according to the report, should be taken by a formal meeting of the NPC chaired either by the Prime Minister or vice chairperson, including the chief secretary and the finance secretary. The secretary from the ministry directly related to the proposed project will also be invited.
Once the projects are approved, they will be formally announced through the government’s annual budget “with assured funding and timeline for completion”, says the report.
Projects that get the label of ‘national pride’ will avail multi-year funding facility based on absorption capacity. Also, foreign exchange facility will be extended, and fiscal incentives, such as refund of taxes paid, will be provided on a case-by-case basis.
National pride projects will also get government support to acquire private and be subject to flexible compensation modality for acquisition of forest land, under which land-for-land substitution may not be required when forests are cleared, says the report. Also, environmental impact assessments of such projects will be completed within 39 working days.
Other incentives recommended for national pride projects are: simplified procedures while awarding of multi-year contracts; substantial reduction in number of days to submit responses to Requests for Proposals from the current practice of 35 days for internal applicants and 3 months for international applicants; and permission to contractors to extract river-based rocks, stones, pebbles and sand as required from a mine nearest to the project site.
If the projects do not move ahead properly even after enjoying these facilities, project chiefs will be given authority to penalise contractors, including their disqualification from participation in future bids, says the report.
Recommendations made by the report
National pride projects to be selected based on proposal submitted by government agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations
National pride projects should be of strategic importance and deliver unique economic, social, cultural or environmental values to the public
NPC meeting chaired either by the Prime Minister or vice chairperson will select the national pride project
National pride projects will be entitled to multi-year funding facility, foreign exchange facility and fiscal incentives
National pride projects will get government support to acquire private and be subject to flexible compensation modality for acquisition of forest land
National pride projects will get permission to extract river-based rocks, stones, pebbles and sand as required from a mine nearest to the project site
Project chiefs will be authorised to penalise contractors of national pride projects, including their disqualification from participation in future bids, if implementation is weak