Power sector will be made strike-free: Finance Minister

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    KATHMANDU, MAR 16 –

    Ram-sharan-Mahat Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has said the government will bring the power and a few other sectors under the purview of the “Essential Service Operation Act 1957” which bans strikes.

    The minister said frequent disturbances in the power sector have led to rise in project costs and construction delays.

    The Act has listed post office, telephone service, transportation, civil aviation, airport, railway station, services of defense affairs such as arms and ammunition, products of military goods and any services published by the government in the Nepal gazette as areas where the government can impose a ban on strikes.

    The government in 2011 had added 16 services to the list, including transportation and distribution of petroleum products and health care, by issuing a notice in the Nepal gazette.

    According to the Act, those violating the Act will be subjected to up to one year imprisonment or a fine up to Rs 1,000 or both. However, hardly anyone violating the Act has so far been punished.

    “If we want economic resurgence, development projects, roads and factories must be peaceful and free of strikes for at least five years,” said Mahat at a press meet organised by the Society of Economic Journalists, Nepal, here on Saturday.

    “The interruptions give contractors an excuse to delay the project and the government has to pay extra amount to the contractor.”

    Various hydropower projects like Upper Karnali, transmission lines like Khimti-Dhalkebar, and other projects have been stalled due strikes by a few political forces and land acquisition-related problems.

    Stressing the need for the second generation reforms which have stalled for the last two decades, new legislation in the areas of industry,

    financial sector and power sector needs to be introduced, he said.“Likewise, we also have to bring reforms in the governance.”

    The minister said the reforms carried out in the early 90s enabled the country to achieve higher economic growth, but the stagnation of reforms since mid-90s led to slow growth.

    “Industrial Enterprise Act, Foreign Direct Investment and Technology Transfer Act and Cooperative Act, among others, were introduced in the early 90s, but additional reforms have not taken place since then,” said Mahat.

    He said introducing reforms measures is easier now as political parties have largely converged on adopting and continuing liberal policies.

    “Even the Maoists not reversing the liberal policies taken by the Nepali Congress government in the early 90s suggests practicality has brought all the political forces to the correct path,” Mahat said. With government’s investment in hydropower projects remaining low for over a decade, Mahat said the government will continue to invest in the sector despite increased private sector investment.

    “The withdrawal the World Bank from Arun III project and the Maoist insurgency badly affected international investment in the power sector,” the said Mahat. “Now, the World Bank itself is ready to invest up to $5-6 billion in next few years,” he said.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post