PAF for formation of oversight agency on poverty reduction
KATHMANDU, July 31: The Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) has recommended creation of an independent oversight agency for all work related to alleviating poverty in the country so as to increase coordination among different government bodies working toward the overarching goal of reducing poverty.
The request was made at a time when different government bodies, including PAF and ministries implementing programs designed by the National Planning Commission, are involved in activities related to poverty alleviation, raising chances of overlapping of programs and projects on poverty reduction.
The request was also made at a time when the problem of “overlapping” has been further compounded by recent formation of a separate ministry on poverty alleviation, adding another player to the slew of government bodies overlooking the issue.
Although many are batting for appointment of the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation as an oversight agency, senior PAF officials are against the idea.
“Since poverty is a cross-cutting issue one ministry cannot handle all the activities related to poverty,” PAF Vice-chairman Janak Raj Joshi told an interaction jointly organized by PAF and Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal (SEJON) in Kathmandu on Monday.
“On top of that, years of experience has shown that the ministry usually turns into (a plaything) of whoever becomes minister, which cannot ensure long-term continuity of programs,” he said referring to the long-running problem of hung parliament in the country which has led to frequent changes in governments and ministers.
Joshi was of the view that the oversight agency should be in the forms of a commission or a separate bureau under the National Planning Commission. Another option, according to Joshi, could be rebranding of PAF and turning it into an oversight agency.
“But whatever be the name, formation of such a body can only allow us to work in a focused manner and deliver targeted programs to targeted groups,” Joshi said.
Since the formation of PAF, around eight years ago, the number of people below the line of poverty has fallen down to 25.4 percent of the population. Whether credit for this improvement should go to bodies like the PAF working toward reducing poverty or the overseas migrant workers who send billions of rupees per year in the form of remittances is debatable, but poverty in the country has declined and the contribution of bodies like PAF cannot be understated.
“Our studies over the years have shown that projects and programs implemented by PAF have been more effective in reducing poverty than those introduced by others,” Dr Gayatri Acharya, senior economist at the World Bank told the interaction, commending PAF´s work.
So far, projects run by PAF which include income generating for ensuring food security, have benefited 622,000 households of 59 districts. Of the number of households covered, 65 percent include ultra-poor families, according to PAF.
“Although our focus so far has been on providing immediate relief to different groups through creation of revolving funds, our next phase of projects will emphasize on inculcating culture of savings among these groups so that they can create assets and reinvest them to multiply their wealth,” Joshi said.