KATHMANDU, May 27: In May last year, Minister for Finance Yuba Raj Khatiwada announced a flagship program named Prime Minister Employment Program (PMEP), promising a minimum of 100 days of employment to jobless people.
Under the program, listed unemployed people would be entitled to sustenance allowance if the government failed to provide them employment.
But a year after announcing the scheme, the government has now said that no such allowance would be distributed this year. This is because the government has no data of unemployed youths, a source at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security told Republica.
As per the program handled by the federal government, each jobless youth would have got half of minimum daily wage (Rs 517) as sustenance allowed for 100 days.
Implementation of the program got delayed due to slow preparation, the source said. The source further added that the ministry has simply adjusted the program with other similar programs run by local units targeting poor people. The program has also been revised, promising employment guarantee of a minimum of 30 days only for the current fiscal year.
The program was announced amid much fanfare by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in February.
The source told Republica that delay in recruitment of human resources also affected implementation of the program.
"As per the criteria, only the people have less than 100 days of employment in a year are eligible to enroll in the program. As the criteria have been revised for the current fiscal year, we will not be providing sustenance allowance,” Prakash Dahal, a joint secretary of PMEP, told Republica.
The program, which was launched with an aim to provide at least 100 days of employment targeting 21 percent of population living below poverty line, has decided to provide only 30 days of wage-employment to listed people in the current fiscal y ear. In a bid to allow more time for beneficiaries to get enrolled into the scheme, the government had extended registration deadline by a month till May 14. The deadline for enrollment has already expired.
The PMEP, however, is yet to screen the applicants.
Commenting on slow progress in implementation of the program, Ganesh Gurung, a labor expert, said: "The slow implementation itself shows that the functioning of the government is very ineffective."
Dahal said that local units have received applications ranging from 12,000 to 20,000. "Employment coordinators of each unit are now studying family background of each applicant," said Dahal.
The federal government has allocated a total of Rs 2.36 billion for all 753 local units to implement the program. With the budget, local units can provide support to only 250 unemployed people each.
To implement the program, the post of employment coordinator has been created in all local units. The ministry organized an orientation for employment coordinators only recently.
“As the program is big and of national scale, it requires lot of time for research as well as numerous field visits. As the PMEP was launched without needful homework, we have faced some difficulties in its implementation," Dahal said, adding: "It is like learning by doing process for us."
Dahal also added that they were learning from the experience from countries like India, Ethiopia and Argentina, among others. "We have also been learning through feedbacks received from our employment coordinators,” he added.
The program is being implemented as per the Employment Rights Act, 2075.
“The program is admirable because in employment is one of the major economic indicators of any country. We often float ambitious programs, but implementation aspect has remained weak most of the times," labor expert Gurung added.