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Government Says Prime Minister Employment Programme Created Over 2.2 Million Days of Work for Over 175,000 People
Minister Gokarna Bista calls the achievement historic, but there are concerns whether such cash distributive schemes will help the country—and the people—in the long run.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The Kathmandu Post
2 August 2019
While the government has been facing criticism for squandering billions of rupees in the Prime Minister Employment Programme without any tangible results, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security on Thursday said the programme has successfully generated over 2.2 million days of employment for unemployed citizens.
The Prime Minister Employment Programme is a much talked-about government initiative that aims to guarantee minimum days of paid employment to citizens.
The programme that was rolled out to provide a minimum 1oo days of employment opportunities to unemployed people across the country created 22,62,269 days of work for a total of 1,75,909 applicants, according to the ministry.
The claimed number of jobs was recorded in 599 local levels in the last two months of the fiscal year 2018-19.
According to the ministry, the number of beneficiaries and days of jobs would go up as it was still collecting information from remaining local level units.
The number of jobs, which accounts for 13 days of work on the national average, has come at the expense of Rs2.36 billion allocated for implementation of the programme.
“We managed to implement the programme in the last fiscal year after completing a total of 86 various procedures,” said Gokarna Bista, minister of labour, employment and social security. “This is a historic achievement given the short span of time. With a fraction of the country’s total budget, we have managed to create jobs for thousands of citizens. This is the first instance in the history of the country where even certain days of jobs have been ensured.”
After delayed implementation of the employment scheme, which was launched in February to guarantee at least 100 days of work for unemployed citizens of the working age (18 to 59 years), the government had said the scheme would not be able to guarantee the earlier pledged number of days of work in that fiscal year because of the minimum time available for its full-fledged implementation.
The programme had gone into implementation only in mid-May when the government had approved Rs2.36 billion for the implementation of the scheme. The allocated amount was distributed—a minimum amount of R500,000 to maximum Rs10 million—among all 753 local units.
With the available budget, the government had revised its job creation target and said that the employment scheme would provide only 30 days of paid employment opportunities to over 100,000 workers in the last fiscal year.
The registered unemployed citizens were mobilised in a total 6,864 projects which included tree plantation, public toilet construction, road construction and improvements, drainage repair, playground improvements, soil irrigation, drinking water and irrigation projects, trekking trail building among others.
“Through this programme, we have managed to send out the message that the country can have its stories of employment not only unemployment,” added Minister Bista. “People who used to struggle to meet basic needs have managed to live a better life at least for a few days with the money.”
The government data has been made public at a time when the programme has come under criticism for its mismanagement on the ground level. There have been reports of local levels deploying registered people to do trivial work like rearing stray animals, gardening, among others.
Since the programme was launched, the employment scheme has drawn mixed reactions. Labour experts and economists have stressed the weightage on its effective implementation and monitoring behind its success.
Former government secretary and labour expert Purna Chandra Bhattarai said the government should not have gone into haste while going for the nationwide implementation of scheme as huge as this one.
“The implementation should have been piloted into a small area for instance in Karnali and then into Province 2 before expanding it to across the country,” Bhattarai told the Post. “For its effective implementation and meeting its goals, the identification of targeted beneficiaries especially those below the poverty line should be properly done. The outcome of the programme should reflect in creation of assets rather than small works and it should also contribute in ensuring social security.”
In this fiscal year, the government still aims to create a minimum 500,000 jobs inside the country. More than 1.7million applicants have registered with the employment scheme. For the implementation of the scheme, the government has also started homework for taking a loan of nearly Rs13 billion from the International Development Association, a part of the World Bank.
“If we are taking a loan, which is a form of investment, especially at a time when we already have trade deficit and crunch of foreign currency, such investment must ensure productive results,” said Arjun Kharel, a labour and migration researcher with the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, a think tank. “Such investment should be in the productive sector that improves our domestic product—not to distribute cash for insignificant works.”