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Is the idea of state running large buses the solution to improve public transport experience?

Every one of us commuting in public vehicles in the city can recognize the awful experience in travelling by heavily crowded unmaintained buses while being squeezed up among commuters in most uncomfortable ways. The chronic victims are in fact the ones traveling to work on busy commuting hours when this recklessness is at its peak. For such commuters as we know, travelling between home and work has mostly been the area of tension besides work.

In recognizing the tragedy of the commuters, the central government has made a decision to urge the municipalities of Kathmandu Valley to jointly form a company to operate 50 large buses running around the city. And, given our common belief that state is somehow responsible for taking care of our fundamental necessities like proper public transport system, this decision can easily be perceived as virtuous effort. After all, this government commitment to provide better public commutation service to people seems as a move to rescue us from the daily bad commutation experience. However, this common logic doesn’t draw the complete picture for this matter. There are actually relatively unaddressed but severe realities that can lead us to come at more thoughtful conclusions.

In digging deeper down in search of the root cause of the terrible realities of our public transport service, one has to come across the existence of mafia-like transport syndicate. The transport syndicate being formed by influential associations of transport operators has enabled them to dominate the public transport sector in Nepal despite the horrible transportation service they are providing since decades. By preventing the entry of new transport entrepreneurs in the public transport sector by means of coercion and vandalism, the syndicate of public transport associations has heavily protected the limited number of below standard service providers from the mechanism of free competition that guarantees quality service. Meanwhile, their strong political connection and presence in regulatory committee (i.e., Transport Management Committee) that awards permits to new entrepreneurs in this sector has retained their impunity from law despite their illegal attempts to maintain monopoly.

The idea of government running its own bus fleets to put competitive pressure on the syndicate is understandable. But, it may not be the most sustainable solution to the benefit of public vehicle commuters and taxpayers at large. To clarify such contention, one can always refer to the misery of the state-run enterprises in having to hugely rely on state coffer financed by taxpayers to somehow run its inefficient and loss making operations producing below standard services. Though they carry the objective of running in a profit-model concept that expects them of surviving on their own revenue, the state-system instead offers them the facility to encroach on tax payer’s wealth indefinitely as they lose track of profits. And, given the upcoming transport company is to be functioning within the same system and incentive, we can logically expect same fate for this transport based public enterprise too. Alas, state could be only adding another avenue to leech taxpayer’s wealth in name of providing so-called “basic transport service” to the people without considering the financial burden it generates among the very people.

Having said this, utilizing regulatory tools to establish competitive market environment in the public transport sector can instead lead the state to create an effective solution that doesn’t require manipulating taxpayers’ wealth. By neutralizing the condition generated by the syndicate to keep new transport entrepreneurs away from the market, such measure will compel service providers to compete among each other to provide competitive service efficiently to survive in the market on profits. Most importantly, besides preventing taxpayer’s from the burden of financing transport service, it will enable commuters to travel more conveniently with impressive solutions that yield out of continuous innovation through sustained competition.

Prience Shrestha

About Prience Shrestha

Prience works in the research department at Samriddhi Foundation. And, he attempts to specialize in the field of Development Economics

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Kathmandu Ujyalo Karyakram – A luxury we can’t afford

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Driving by Durbar Marg recently has been a treat for my sore eyes. Amidst the ever present cloud of dust and array of battered railings and lampposts, the new towering handsome silver lights are a real breath of fresh air. When conversations ensued about the lighting and beautification of the street, I for one did not hesitate to praise Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s efforts, which are in-fact truly brilliant.  However, when I read about the Asian Development Bank’s Rs.380 million contribution to this project in a national daily, the million dollar question (literally!) that came to my mind was: Is it worth it?

Firstly, the cost of this project is too high for simply lighting Kathmandu streets relative to the cost of other major infrastructure projects that are in a desperate need for funding. Durbar Marg, already one of the poshest areas in the country, has a plethora of high-end shops and restaurants that attract mostly wealthy youngsters and mid-aged people. Undoubtedly the additional 30 solar lights, pavements and benches will make a pleasant visiting experience of the street. However, spending Rs.11.7 million in installation alone and an additional Rs. 7.3 million in maintenance each year seems simply too extravagant for a country that faces 84 hours of power cuts per week. To make matters worse, KMC plans to install additional 600 lights in major city areas like New Baneshwor, Swayambhu, Basantapur, Singha Durbar, Tripureshwore and Thapathali using the ADB funds.

Secondly, the way this entire project was completed seems extremely dubious and points a big finger towards the financial gain of few special interest groups. At the onset of this project, the original plan was to share the costs between KMC and public and consumer committees. However, that plan failed when the public and consumer committees showed no particular interest in investing in this project. The project commenced anyways. The fact that this project was planned, funded and completed despite little to no interest from key stakeholders raises a major red flag regarding the true intention behind this project. One argument we keep hearing at attempts to justify this project is that, this project will contribute substantial financial benefits to the Durbarmarg area. In a statement by the Durbar Marg Development Board president, he claimed that the Durbar Marg area will be witnessing additional business transactions of over Rs. 100 million per year due to two hours of extended business hours by 150 businesses. These additional operational hours will in turn help the government collect an extra Rs. 20 million VAT. They also plan on raising money by advertising on electric boards operated by these lights. While these facts and figures do look alluring, their accuracy is seriously questionable. Only time will tell.

In conclusion, infrastructure development using sustainable energy sources is a brilliant idea and undoubtedly an indispensable variable in the modern economic growth equation. However, I question the marginal benefit of providing solar powered street lights to a segment of Nepali population that is already well off relative to the rest of the country. At a moment when Nepal lacks the most basic infrastructures and when majority of its population are living in abject poverty, providing solar fueled street lights to people looking to buy TAG Heuer watches after their KFC dinner is plain silly. There are still villages where students are forced to cross rivers using life-threatening ropeways (tuin) just to go to school, and then there are villages where there are no schools. We ourselves face excruciating hours of load shedding every single day, and people have to wake at the crack of dawn just to get a bucket of water. Efficient resource allocation is the key for development, and I believe that the ADB funds would be a lot more valuable in building bridges, schools or hydroelectric plants than installing pretty lights. We have to set our priorities straight. With massive opportunity costs and alternative solutions as cheap as maintaining the existing electric poles and bulbs, the Kathmandu Ujyalo Karyakram is a luxury we can’t afford. Besides, I’m sure everyone would rather have a group of kids get to school safely than make their own strolls in the roads a tad bit easier on the eyes!

P.S. I would like to thank Mr. Sajal Man Shrestha for his invaluable insights and support, as well as for helping me edit this article.

Sneha Pradhan

About Sneha Pradhan

Sneha Pradhan is a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a Special Major in Economics and Statistics, and a Minor in Complex Organizations.

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Efficient Solid Waste Management a crucial need!

solidwastemanagement

Source: http://www.everestuncensored.org/2730/2008/06/17/managing-solid-waste-whose-responsibility/

Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Nepal in recent year has become a very crucial issue especially for urban development and health. According to News Reports, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is mainly responsible for collecting waste management in the Kathmandu Valley and nearly 50% of its staffs 140 vehicles are responsible for collecting and disposing waste in the city. Despite this, improper disposal and littering of streets and even river banks is a usual phenomenon and people are forced to navigate through the pile of rotting garbage as they tread along their daily routines.

According to Solid Waste Management and Resource Mobilization Centre( SWMRMC) the total amount of solid waste produced per day by five municipalities of Kathmandu, ( Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Madhyapur Thimi and Kirtipur) is 435 dry metric tons out of which 75% originate from households. The recent report by Asia Development Bank ( ADB) stated that nearly 66% of solid waste produced by household is organic and can be reused and recycled.

Reuse and recycling is especially beneficial if the same product is in a huge amount and the huge proportion of organic waste translates to monetary and social benefits.  The report further mentions how organic composting could significantly reduce the Balance of Payment of Nepal ( BOP) because of the significant import of chemical fertilizers to the country.

Organic waste would not only help in producing organic fertilizers but it also has potentials for producing bio gas through anaerobic digestion. Bio gas would definitely help in providing for the energy needs of the city as a huge part of energy needs in Nepal which is nearly 90% is for domestic use. Bio gas would not only help in providing for the energy needs it would also help in reducing Green house emission since it is considered to be a form of clean energy. Morever, the Government of Nepal’s Energy Strategy  Plan also has recommended to promote clean energy in the form of bio gas beside other renewable energy.

Recently, news report covered the  proposed plans of the Kathmandu Metropolitan city to allow  private companies collection and disposal work of solid waste from the city through open bidding process. To be noted is the fact previous initiatives by KMC through the open bidding process had failed which according to officials was because of the lack of cooperation from the stakeholders involved.

If the  KMC does approve of this, it has a lot to benefit from this private public partnership. The National Policy of SWM formulated in 1996 has provision for the involvement of private sector participation in solid waste management. However, private sector participation has been very limited but it has great potentials because one of the reasons for the flaking performance of the KMC in terms of Solid waste management has been the lack of finance and expertise which could be available through private firms.

Till date large percentage of household waste is collected through door to door service, single collection point which however has not been effective and has been infrequent.  Besides that riverside dumping is still very prevalent in the valley which needs to be stopped as the practice affects both Stopping human health and also destroys the ecological environment. Though the civil society groups have been working towards restoring the rivers health, the KMC needs to play a vital role for reducing this ill practice.

The Waste Management Act of 2011 has provisions for collecting tariff from the public as per the amount of waste disposed as well as a fine system for illegal dumping which has not been implemented.

Apart from waste collection and disposal, KMC’s work as involves monitoring waste disposals from hospitals, hazardous waste from industries and the sewerage system in terms of waste management. Due to the very intensive nature of the SMW it is impossible of the KMC to oversee each and every aspect of waste management in the Valley. Furthermore, waste disposal at the sanitary site have also received criticism for the unhealthy way they are disposed.

Efficient collection and handling can be done through private companies given the sense of ownership and profit involved. The Municipality through its partnership with the private companies could also generate tariff that would help in assisting other integral aspect of SWM in the country and even water waste management which is another pressing issue at the present moment. Furthermore, not all municipalities in the country have efficient management system for waste management and the ADB report on the survey of 58 municipalities found that nearly 44% of the municipalities were not even aware of the clauses of the National Policy of SWM. Thereby, private partnership with companies which are financially sound and technically adept would help in improving the SWM significantly.

 

 

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Where Do I Park?

Motorcycle jam due to mismanaged  parking

Motorcycle jam due to mismanaged parking

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office has brought forth a provision of free parking for vehicles in the valley since 27th of December, 2013. As encouraging as the move might have sounded to many, the following turn of events made quite a different story altogether. It almost seems like the aftermath was not duly anticipated by the office prior to making the decision. Haphazard parking, long term parking, traffic jams and discomfort for the general public have made it to the news, all thanks the move. Although, parking spaces have always been a problem, with our without the free parking provisions, from what we have seen so far, the problem has only escalated after the move.

The parking spaces, once made free means that the human resource that managed the vehicles prior to the move have been sent packing and free willed individuals can pretty much park their vehicles where they want and how they want. The Metropolitan office had plans to operate 20 legal parking spaces but neither did they plan it properly infrastructure-wise nor did they appoint adequate staff. This eventually resulted in the problems. Prior to the office’s decision of creating free parking spaces these spaces were managed by private individuals who provided services that were contracted by same office. Private parties managed the parking spaces in return for a small parking fee of NRs. 5-10 and such had created hassle free parking for the general public.

Given the scenario, KMC firstly there needs to develop infrastructure (the process prolonged due to bureaucratic hassles). Secondly, the office has to deploy their staff in the parking lots to manage the vehicles. Thirdly, a monitoring team needs to be set up to check on the staff and illegal parking.
In a city with 12 million registered vehicles, management of parking spaces is a lucrative business (even if NRs. 10 were to be charged per vehicle). Owing to the intensity of money that is transacted during the process the government, KMC, private individuals and even youth wings of political parties eye the piece of pie. When tenders for parking lots are opened by KMC there is a fierce competition among political parties, employee and local goons and hence controversies have always emerged on issues like corruption, favoritism and nepotism.

The core problem lies not in KMC or the contractor but in the inability of the government to hold local elections for more than a decade. In the absence, local bodies have been occupied by politically appointed bureaucrats and local members of all major political parties. The national vigilance report also states “Mismanagement, corruption and misallocation of resources are a common practice among the local bodies”. If local elections were to appoint representatives, this would give the representatives direct access to parking spaces in their area which they can contract out to private parties. Both private parties and the local elected bodies would directly be accountable to the local people hence reducing corruption and foul play.

As of now, the problem with parking spaces will hardly get any better with KMC’s involvement. The government and KMC are forgetting one essential component in the process i.e. the incentive structure. When a private party manages a parking space they do it because they have incentives to manage the parking and get as many bikes as possible which in turn would help them earn more. Such is not true for a KMC employee who would not be interested in managing the parking because he has no incentive to do so.

One of the easiest ways to manage the parking spaces while collecting the revenues and reducing traffic jams is by contracting it to private parties through competitive bidding. The KMC office should instead invest manpower and resources in monitoring and evaluation of the performance of private parties and such would be a win-win for all the parties involved.

Koshish Acharya

About Koshish Acharya

Acharya is a student of social sciences and has been associated with Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation for the last three years.

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