Government makes operational changes in employment drive to make it more effectiveWith the available budget of Rs5 billion, the government aims to provide 100 days of work to at least 60,000 citizens this year under the programme which has met with criticism for squandering state funds.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
After a few months of hiatus in the ongoing fiscal year, the Prime Minister Employment Programme, the government’s scheme to guarantee waged employment to the unemployed population, seems to be taking off after the introduction of some major operational changes.
Unlike in the previous year, the implementation of the programme this year will be demand-based, according to Prakash Dahal, a joint-secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
“This time, the local levels that want to implement their projects under the programme will have to submit their project details and the number of registered unemployed citizens at their local level,” said Dahal. “If they do not submit the project details in advance, they will not get the budget under the programme.”
The Labour Ministry, the focal agency of the government for implementing the programme, has started collecting project details, estimated budget and number of registered unemployed citizens from the local levels. So far, over 500 local levels have furnished these details.
The government is dispatching over Rs5.01 billion to local levels, which will be implementing the scheme under the Prime Minister Employment Programme that pledges a minimum of 100 days of paid work opportunity to unemployed citizens.
Brought into implementation last fiscal year, the programme faced both praise and criticism. While it gathered plaudits for ensuring a minimum number of workdays to the unemployed citizens, it also invited criticism for squandering the state fund over registered citizens who were seen doing trivial work while working under the programme.
“The changes in the operation were made as per the experience from the last year,” said Dahal, who heads the Prime Minister Employment Programme at the Labour Ministry. “We have internalised those suggestions and drawbacks. There were criticisms that the state fund was misused in works such as weeding roadsides and neighbourhoods. The latest changes will not allow that.”
Last fiscal year, when the programme went into implementation in mid-May, it had created 22,62,269 days of work for a total of 175,909 applicants, according to the Labour Ministry.
Although the programme had pledged a minimum of 100 days of paid jobs to unemployed citizens, the goal was later revised to 30 days of waged employment to over 100,000 registered unemployed citizens.
But when the fiscal year came to an end, it could only generate 13 days of work on the national average after spending Rs2.36 billion in the last two months of its execution.
A minimum of R500,000 to a maximum of Rs10 million was sent to all local units for the implementation of the scheme. The amount for each local unit was distributed after calculating three factors—the number of households with poverty, the total population of the local unit and its remoteness. This year, the criteria to get the budget will depend upon the project and the number of registered population under the programme.
To minimise malpractices reported last year, the ministry will first analyse the nature of submitted projects and decide whether the local levels deserve funds and if they will operate as per the goals of the overall programme. The finalisation of the budget for local levels as per their projects will be completed by mid-January.
This year, the government has allocated Rs5.01 billion—Rs2.39billion of the Nepal government and Rs2.62billion of soft loan support from the World Bank. The government had also met with criticism for seeking the loan for the programme, which remained poorly enforced.
With the available budget, the government hopes to provide 100 days of jobs to nearly 60,000 people, as 30 percent of the allocated budget can be spent on buying construction materials and safety items, among others, for the workers, according to Dahal.
Nearly 1.7 million citizens have registered themselves as unemployed with the Employment Information Centre, which has been set up across all local levels.
The ministry, however, hopes the number will go down, as a large number of people last year had registered under the programme thinking it would provide them with regular jobs.
“The number will come down to less than a million after a thorough inspection from the employment information centre,” said Dahal. “The programme will target the ultra-poor and the marginalised section of society.”