Nepalese Ministries to prioritise rehab, rebuilding

Nepalese police and army personel clear rubble of temples at Durbar square, the UNESCO world heritage site damaged by the earthquake in Kathmandu.

KATHMANDU - With huge resources required for rehabilitation and reconstruction works in the aftermath of the Great Earthquake, the Ministry of Finance plans to ask ministries to review their programmes which they have already planned for the next fiscal year.

Finance Ministry officials said that since a huge amount of money needs to be diverted for the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, the ministries would be asked to remove from priority programmes and projects that are not essential to be implemented immediately.

"This will allow for resources to be allocated to reconstruction projects in the upcoming fiscal budget," said Suman Sharma, secretary at the Finance Ministry.

With only two months to go for the budget, the ministries have been preparing programmes under the ceiling provided by the National Planning Commission (NPC).

According to Sharma, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure will get top priority in the next budget. For the last few years, the government has been focusing on infrastructure development with an aim to graduate Nepal to a developing nation by 2022 from the current "least developed" status.

NPC Vice-chairman Govinda Raj Pokharel said there has been talk about introducing a special plan in the budget to address the destruction caused by earthquake, floods, landslides and other natural disasters. "Ministries will be asked to adjust their programmes by accommodating the plan for disaster preparedness," he added.

Pokharel said that the overall ceiling of the budget might not change. The resource committee headed by the NPC vice-chairman has set the limit at Rs735 billion.

The government has announced the National Reconstruction Fund of Rs200 billion and has already allocated Rs20 billion to it. Additional resources are expected to be contributed by donors.

The fund will be used for the resettlement of people rendered homeless by the earthquake with the construction of low-cost houses, to reconstruct government buildings and other structures.

According to Sharma, there has also been initial talk of resettling the people in certain places in an organised manner so that service delivery would be easy. Officials say that due to scattered settlements, distributing aid had been challenging.

The Finance Ministry has released funds only for the relief purpose so far. According to the ministry, it has already released Rs2 billion and a similar amount is due to be disbursed shortly.