PM Oli says the package should be sustainable; private sector leaders warn street protest if budget fails to address their concerns
KATHMANDU, May 20: The government has been reluctant to come up with a stimulus package as demanded by the private sector leaders to help the economy regain its footing.
It has been nearly one and a half months that the businesses have completely shuttered, but the government has introduced only some relief measures like moratorium on debt repayment and tax deferrals. However, the government has not provided a reprieve to the businesses when they are on the verge of collapse, say leaders of the private sector.
Private sector leaders who were hopeful about a government package comprising relief and rescue measures to revive businesses and stimulate the economy through the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2020/21 are growing frustrated.
Speaking at the federal parliament on Tuesday to respond to concerns of parliamentarians on the Policy and Program for the upcoming fiscal year 2020/21, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli hinted that the government may not come up with a package as sought by the private sector.
The Policy and Program that precedes the budget has already received frosty reception from the private sector. The Policy and Program endorsed by the parliament on Tuesday largely serves as a basis for the finance minister to prepare his budget.
“Liquidity is a main concern for most of the businesses here. There was no announcement in the policy and program how the government will make sure that those businesses will have liquidity,” Shekhar Golchha, the senior vice president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told journalists in an interaction held through Zoom. “The government was silent even on major issues like the refinance facility, lowering lending rates and salary for workers during this crisis,” he added.
The FNCCI has warned that if the government fails to incorporate its suggestions in the upcoming budget, it will not have any other alternatives but to come to the street protest.
“We have provided the government a number of suggestions to revive businesses and the economy. If the government does not address our concerns, our industries and businesses will collapse and the economy of the country will plunge into the crisis beyond our imagination,” said Bhawani Rana, the president of FNCCI.
“This has adversely impacted our economy. But we cannot remain unnerved and do nothing. We have to restart our life again,” said PM Oli. “If this pandemic prolongs, we have to seriously think of ways to combat the COVID-19 and restart our society and economic activities together,” he said, adding that the economy should be developed to make the country self-reliant.
Dashing the private sector’s hope of a rescue package in the budget, PM Oli said that the government will take a cautious approach.
“Some have called for a relief package. This is not something that you flaunt. Nor is it a subject of our interest. The package should be guided by our current and possible economic situation,” said PM Oli, addressing the parliament on Tuesday. “We cannot behave in a deceitful manner where you say something, show another thing and do a different thing. We have to put the real picture in front of the people. While presenting the package, we have to be careful to make sure that it is based on resources and it is sustainable.”
He also put forth the government’s priority of generating employment opportunities for those who have lost their income due to the pandemic.
“Providing employment opportunities and ensuring their income through employment is the most sustainable way to run the society. This is also needed to make the economy stronger. We are trying to take this course,” he said. “The government has thought about this and is making arrangements for those poor people who do not have anyone to depend on or cannot work themselves or we cannot expect work from them.