Government to divert Rs 136 billion budget to anti-Covid-19 measuresFunds for land acquisition, vehicle procurement and events to go for the disease control.
The government has decided to divert Rs 136 billion from its annual budget allocations to fund efforts to combat the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.
The finance ministry last week notified government agencies that the budget allocated under 14 headings such as land and vehicle procurement and organisation of seminars has been frozen to divert funds to prevent the spread of the contagious virus and to treat the infected.
However, the entire amount may not be available to the government as revenue collection is also expected to suffer due to the epidemic, and the government is yet to ascertain the size of liabilities already created based on the original budget.
“As revenue is also supposed to dip due to lack of economic activities, we cannot confirm how much amount can be diverted from the allocated budget headings,” said said Dhani Ram Sharma, a joint secretary at the Ministry of Finance.
In its budget for FY 2019/2020, the government had allocated the Rs 136.60 billion, which it now plans to divert, under 14 titles such as recurrent contingencies (Rs 29.39 billion), programme expenses (Rs28.26 billion) and land acquisition (Rs 28 billion).
Now, the budget allocated under the 14 titles can only be spent in cases where liability had already been created by April 2.
The latest decision is likely to affect a host of projects including the 1200MW Budhigandaki Hydropower Project, which still needs to distribute compensation for land acquisition.
The government had allocated Rs 13 billion to compensate people affected by the national pride project. According to Ritesh Rawal, information officer at the Budhigandaki project, the project has so far provided compensation to owners of 46,671 ropanies of the 58,153 ropanies acquired for the project.
Likewise, the Department of Roads said that construction work under the Postal Highways and roads under the Kathmandu Road Expansion Project could be affected due to the latest government decision.
Keshav Kumar Sharma, director general at the department said that the road department won’t face much problems because of the budget cuts. “For us, the bigger problem is that we won’t be able to implement most of the ongoing projects due to the lockdown,” he added.
The last four-five fives months of the fiscal is the time when development activities speed up every year.
According to Sharma, the department also had plans to purchase some vehicles, but that can’t materialise following the recent decision by the government.
Besides diverting the funds, the government also plans to generate resources in partnership with provincial and local governments, mobilise money available with the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund, public enterprises and provided by donors.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.