Social protection transfers have become a highly visible component in social policy since see table 2. Table 2. The objective is to offer social protection through short-term employment and to create or preserve social and economic assets. It is designed to provide days of paid employment at to rupees per day on government infrastructure programmes for persons willing to do unskilled manual work, at a wage fixed at the district level. Similar to the Indian approach, it guarantees a social transfer if employment on a public works scheme is not made available.
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The KEP works with user groups who indentify the project areas and sites. There is a commitment to include all castes, which appears to be met, while women and youth employment impact are lagging Koehler, Cali and Stirbu b: 63; Vaidya et al. The annual government budget allocations over the past four fiscal years have increased from Rs. Approximately 60, households are eligible for participation, which would suggest a need for 6 million workdays each year, if every eligible household applied. The fiscal budget allocations allow for roughly , to 1 million work days at a daily wage of rupees, averaging 15 days per person.
In the first four years of the programme, based on a sample household survey, households were found to have worked 30 days or less Vaidya et al. The district block grants — introduced in 20 districts by end and to be scaled up to all 75 districts — are provided to fund infrastructure building, and distributed on a formula based on size of the population, size of the district, HDI, cost of living index, and revenue generation Koehler, Cali and Stirbu a: The KEP and the block grants could become elements in social protection that could contribute to structural change, provided that the choice of infrastructure schemes and specific locations are decided democratically, do not re-enforce but rather tackle social exclusion and locational inequities, and raise the local wage levels.
The universal old age pension — introduced in — was enhanced, by lowering the entitlement age from 75 to 70 years, and doubling the benefit from to rupees per month. Very significantly, free healthcare services at sub health posts, health posts and district hospitals have been introduced — a significant step, since the costs of health care are a prime driver of socioeconomic insecurity. The child benefit was initially conceptualised as a universal child grant, similar to that available in some high income countries.
Poor households are defined as being landless or having minute landholdings. However, an itemised breakdown of each of the social protection transfers is not available.
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Figure 2. District officials were however in discussion with the Ministry of Local Development because of the implementation difficulties of this modality. These are some of the innovative social transfers available, at the programme level, in Nepal at this time. A first observation would be that the social protection instruments in Nepal are conceptually a response to insecurity in that they are rights based.
Some are universal, by category, such as the old age pension or the education stipends, or the child grant, or geographical, as the KEP, while others are targeted, with clearly defined recipients, so that they come close to categorical transfers. The majority of social protection schemes are in the fiscal budget and tax-financed, with only a few pilots financed by donors.
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They therefore can be interpreted as elements in a nascent social contract. From the angle of government provisioning for social protection — and for social services more widely — the programmes are of interest because of the space they are accorded in the fiscal budget. The social expenditures for health, education, water and sanitation together have constituted approximately 30 per cent of the fiscal budget for the past several budget years UNICEF ROSA fiscal budget database.
Within the social budget, health and education are on average allocated 15 and 46 per cent respectively, which, in terms of relative shares, compares favourably to other developing countries. So, to some extent, one could argue that socioeconomic security is being addressed systemically. There are, however, considerable challenges and issues at the design, delivery and monitoring stages.
The actual coverage achieved by the schemes offers a mixed picture.
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This is very low but exceeds the ratio expected of a country at this economic level ADB The same estimates suggest that only 2. This would be less than 10 per cent of the population. This is because the share of the fiscal budget in the GDP is at only 12 per cent. In the medium term, increased tax revenues as a combined result of more tax compliance and a marginal increase in GDP growth and more trade tax could result in higher tax to GDP and expenditure to GDP ratios.
With associated political will and public pressure, this growing government income could be appropriated for additional socioeconomic security related expenditures. A third, and related, shortcoming is that the outcomes of public social expenditures, expressed in nutrition, education, health or poverty outcomes, are not commensurate with the financial outlay made within the fiscal budget. As mentioned above, economic and social outcomes are on extremely low levels and highly skewed by caste, ethnicity and gender.
So, contrary to the pronounced commitments, socioeconomic security is far from materialising. Reasons for this cleavage between policy commitments and actual implementation are manifold. They include the fragmented nature of the many social protection transfers and the low levels of the actual monetary benefits.
On the supply side, many additional factors come together, undermining any genuine improvement in socioeconomic security. They include the overall low quality of health and education services, their difficult access, the pervasive and painful social exclusion experienced in daily life in service delivery, and the low level of public awareness of schemes for which they are eligible and to which they have a right. Accountability to citizens is not institutionalised. So, even where there are clear entitlements, the transfers are not sufficient in monetary terms, not adequate in terms of quality, and not universal in political terms.
This leads to significant delivery failures. Another shortcoming is of an especially complex nature: some forms of social transfers, introduced with the express aim of overcoming social exclusion, such as the school stipends for Dalit children, may — inadvertently — reinforce exclusion. They may, for example, cement social divisions as they reinforce existing group identities and become instrumentalised by identity politics.
The social transfers have, so far, not been able to contribute to the deep structural transformation required to address socioeconomic security. Ultimately, however, productive assets in the household are the only substantive way to overcome poverty, and social protection transfers aimed at asset building could at least at the margin help address structural poverty. Finally, there is the challenge of the political situation.
Governance remains weak; local authorities are not in control in several parts of the country; mismanagement as well as outright corruption continues. The peace process stalls, with constitution writing and military integration not progressing as laid out in the peace agreement, so that political and individual insecurity characterise the situation in several regions of Nepal. The notion addresses the multiplicity of human rights and development requirements, and spans social and economic development. Inherent to this approach is that socioeconomic security needs be universalised, both from a methodological and from a normative perspective.
Rights are not divisible and cannot be targeted to a sub- group of a population, which implies that equity is integral to this notion. Secondly, there is a realist or pragmatist case for adopting a rights-based approach: if income levels are low as they are in Nepal, and income inequality is large and increasing, there is a case for universalised approaches, as they are easier to administer and can be the most effective way to spread impact.
Policies for economic and social security in poor countries need to address almost the entire population, and an effective way to do this is to address the entire population. Thirdly, there is an economic argument for a comprehensive social protection programme. The fiscal stimulus packages introduced in the recent economic and financial crisis augmented the incomes of the lowest income quintiles, and contributed at least marginally to improving their socioeconomic security.
They also helped reignite economic growth by stimulating demand. The propensity to spend can be expected to be highest among the lowest income groups, thus getting the strongest multiplier effect from public transfers designed as socioeconomic security measures. Economic security and economic recovery can cohere. Socioeconomic security thus offers an overarching normative as well as economics-based and pragmatic framework for designing and assessing social protection measures.
Using a socioeconomic security framework, the following section offers a tentative proposal on addressing socioeconomic insecurity in Nepal. These four areas are of course far from sufficient. For a transformation from the inequitable and exclusionary outcomes experienced in Nepal — as in many other countries — it is necessary that institutions and service delivery points are reformed and transformed. Policies need to be comprehensively integrated across the political, the social, the ecological, and the cultural or identity domains.
This includes, but reaches far beyond, the linchpin of all socioeconomic security domains — that of the economy. For a country such as Nepal, what does this mean? The brief description of the aspirations of the national development plan and social protection instruments suggests that the state in Nepal sees itself with responsibilities ranging from public food provisioning in times of distress through basic social services provision, to environmental management and social inclusion. The policy measures introduced in recent fiscal budgets place much emphasis on social protection in the wide sense.
The role, and the limitations, of social protection becomes clear: various forms of social protection transfers can address immediate income and food insecurity, be a ladder towards decent work and productive employment, and be tools of affirmative action to overcome social exclusion, and help with political healing. See Schrecker , referring to Donna Haraway. The approach is also rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in some ways, was a design for a better, socially more just world. See Koehler, Cali, Stirbu a. However, there may be insufficient, evaluated evidence for a given sectoral policy or policy instrument.
The role of a right to public information is crucial here. Conclusion Socioeconomic security in Nepal moreover requires social policy including social protection measures at the regional level. These would need to harmonise labour legislation and social protection across South Asia so as to cut through the race to the bottom which propels and perpetuates socioeconomic insecurity. It would need to work on a minimum wage threshold across borders. It could also include basic social protection measures across South Asia, by regionalising legislation, coverage and delivery. Word index: , , , More Expression index: , , , More Phrase index: , , , More Developed by Prompsit Language Engineering for Softissimo.
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