KATHMANDU, April 7: Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives is preparing to allocate conditional grant to the local levels for the development of agricultural sector. As the ministry received several complaints from farmers and other stakeholders that the agricultural budget of current fiscal year 2017/18 was spent in non-agricultural sectors, the ministry now has decided to allocate conditional grants to the local levels for upcoming Fiscal Year 2018/19. The ministry has started discussing with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Federal Affairs & Local Development in this regard.
“Addressing several suggestions and recommendations, the ministry has decided to allocate conditional grant,” Yogendra Karki, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, told Republica. “Once the conditional grant is allocated to the local levels, they will be obliged to spend budget on the particular sector only.”
In the current fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance had allocated agricultural budget to the local levels under the equalization grant that created confusion to the local levels on how and where to use that budget, an official of the ministry said.
“A proper framework on budget implementation was needed for the local levels that they did not receive in this fiscal year,” he said; “As they are new in the power it is the responsibility of central government to guide them.”
Karki further said that the ministry was doing homework from its side to avoid such errors in the upcoming budget.
A recent survey conducted at 44 local units by National Farmers Group Federation (NFGF) and Nepal Agriculture Journalists Academy has showed that only three percent of the total Rs 13.58 billion received by 44 local units has been spent on agriculture and livestock in the current fiscal year. Similarly, a recently published bulletin of the ministry has mentioned that only 64 among 753 local units of seven provinces are implementing block grant programs of the ministry. And as stated by the ministry, equalization grant provided to the local levels has created the problem.
However, spokesperson Karki said that the claim of misusing agro budget is unreliable. “It has not been misused. Rather a small confusion brought this situation,” Karki said, “So, in upcoming fiscal year the ministry is preparing to send conditional grant.”
Uddhav Adhikari, chairperson of National Farmers Group Federation (NFGF), said that conditional grant for the agricultural development could be a short term solution in the federal system.
“Our country has already embraced federal system. In such situation we have to act as per the system,” he said, adding, “It would be better to provide an authority of budget implementation to the local government only.”
He further said that since the local governments are unaware about agro budget, conditional budget could play a good role.
“As the agro sector is related with production, it should be flourished widely,” he said, adding, “Locals levels can take best decision for their area of agriculture.” Therefore, conditional grant could be a short term solution but for long term, local levels must be efficient to implement budget on their own, he added.