KATHMANDU, April 15: Prime Minister KP Oli on Sunday declared to raise the old age allowance for senior citizens through the coming fiscal budget. The announcement, which was made during a televised address to the nation, comes at a time when the government is coming under attack for failing to deliver on its tall promises.
“This government is serious about the well-being of the senior citizens. I would like to assure that the government would increase the social security allowance to senior citizens through the upcoming fiscal budget,” Oli said without divulging the details. The prime minister did not clarify whether others beneficiaries of the state-funded pension schemes including single women, disabled and Dalits would also benefit from the scheme.
“Nobody should remain poor in the country because the government is working for the well-being of people of all walks of life,” the prime minister said adding that the government was paying attention to every aspect of the social security.
The increase in the elderly allowance was long overdue as the ruling Nepal Communist Party had made it one of its major agendas during the provincial and parliamentary elections.
The hike in the elderly allowance, despite its potential to help the government win over the old age constituency, is certain to draw flak from the opposition and economists. Economists and top bureaucrats have long expressed dissatisfaction over the way the political parties have been making social security allowances an instrument to appease voters.
The government has been doling out a large chunk of annual budget for social security allowances and welfare programs. The government currently provides a monthly sum of Rs 2,000 each to elderly people aged 70 and above. The elderly from Dalit groups are entitled to such pension from age 60 and above. Dalit beneficiaries get a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 until 70 years of age.
Besides old age people, the government has been providing similar allowances to single women, widows, people with disabilities and children of the excluded communities and Karnali region. In addition, some of the local authorities have been providing additional benefits as per their capacity, while some provinces have introduced various programs for the youths.
Economists believe that such trend is likely to exhaust the state coffers and further deform the bloated economy. Soon after coming to power in February last year, the left government had issued a white paper accusing past governments led by Nepali Congress of "destroying" the economy.
In the speech, Oli fired back at those criticizing the government for failing to deliver on the tall promises his party had made during the elections. He said that the government was doing its best to improve the lives of the common citizens. He said that the government was steering the country toward economic development while promoting the rule of law and good governance.
“The Nepali people had voted for peace, stability and development. The government is working toward that end,” Oli said while lambasting the Nepali Congress-led alliance for the planned protest against the government. Oli said that Nepalis would not blindly follow the party trying to push the country toward instability.
PM Oli also launched a scheme that makes it mandatory for each citizen to have a bank account. During the occasion, he distributed health insurance cards to some senior citizens and opened bank accounts of his father Mohan Prasad Oli and mother-in law Dhanmaya Shakya.