By Prem Khanal
KATHMANDU- Nepalis are consuming more meat and fish, smoking less, and have become more sober – per capita alcohol intake has dropped. According to the Economic Survey for the fiscal year 2005/06 released on Monday (July 10) by the Ministry of Finance, the total meat consumption went up by 2.95 percent to 264.85 thousand tons, which means that the average Nepali consumed 10.24 kg of meat during the period. This is one-fourth the global consumption rate.
However, average consumption of liquor (sealed and bottled) went down to 349.5 ml (11.7 pegs) from last year’s 353.6 ml (11.8 pegs). The latest liquor intake figure is just 8 percent of average global consumption. Likewise, total cigarette production stood at 9,493 million sticks, 0.8 percent higher than last fiscal year but far less than the population growth rate.
Along with this good news there is also some bad news: The total production of cereal food went down to 296.1 kg per head from last year’s 304 kg, mainly thanks to a bad monsoon.
Similarly, the survey revealed that total food crop production was 7,656 thousand tons, which is 1.43 percent less than last year’s production. However, production of principal commercial crops increased by 7.5 percent to 4,598 thousand tons. Likewise, production of milk and milk products also increased, to 1,312.1 thousand tons from 1,274.2 thousand tons last year.
More on the economic front, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 2.4 percent at constant prices and the size of the total economy touched Rs 557.9 billion (about US$7.54 billion). As a result, the annual average income of Nepalis increased by 6.9 percent to Rs 22,540 (US$ 311).
However, the social sector continued to present a bleak picture, as the number of schools declined by almost 6 percent to 34,543 from last year’s 36,729. The biggest decline of almost 10 percent was in the number of secondary schools.
But the total number of students increased by 6.6 percent to 6.46 million. The biggest increase of almost 12 percent was seen in the number of primary level students. However, the number of students enrolled in lower secondary schools dropped by almost 5 percent.
Interestingly, in the health sector, all the crucial indicators remained the same as last year. The number of health posts and primary health centers remained unchanged at 699 and 180 respectively.
Similarly, on the drinking water and sewerage front, the availability of water per day has increased to 7.2 million liters from last year’s 5.58 million liters.
Khanal is the business bureau chief at the Kathmandu Post. Here is the original article.
Economic growth below target
By Milan Mani Sharma
KATHMANDU, July 12 – As drought dragged down agriculture production, and conflict and political stir squeezed industrial activity, economy grew by a mere 2.4 percent this year, says the Economic Survey 2005/06.
The growth is far less than the annual target set at 4.5 percent.
The expansion of the economic pie was offset by higher population growth rate, which exceeded GDP growth rate. “Real per capita income decreased by 0.25 percent, as against a rise of 0.46 percent last year,” says the Survey, which is based on 8 months data.
Less than expected performances of the agriculture and industrial sectors, sharp rise in inflation (7.6 percent) and increase in unemployment, among others, show that the poverty situation worsened during the year.
The Survey projects agriculture sector to grow by a mere 1.7 percent, as against the growth of 3 percent of 2004/05. The decline is attributed to adverse weather (drought) at the time of plantation of staple food crops, including paddy.
“The performance of the non-agriculture sector also deteriorated, although ceasefire in the last quarter is expected to pull its growth to 2.8 percent,” says the Survey.
Preliminary estimates show the total production of food crops would go down by 1.43 percent (i.e. 111 thousand tons), limiting production to 7.65 million tons.
Production of paddy and wheat – two major food crops – is estimated to go down by 1.88 percent (to 4.20 million tons) and 3.35 percent (to 1.39 million tons) respectively, while production of maize is expected to rise by 1.07 percent to 1.73 million tons.
Total production of pulses is calculated to decline by 1.42 percent to 267 thousand tons along with 1.99 percent decline in production of oilseeds to 139 thousand tons. While fruits production is also projected to decline by 2.4 percent to 535 thousand tons, vegetable production is estimated to increase by 4.86 percent to 2.18 million tons in 2005/06.
Owing to squeezed industrial activities, manufacturing sector grew by a mere 2.1 percent as against the 2.6 percent growth last year. Growth of transportation, communication sector and real sector slowed down to 2.2 percent each as compared to 5.1 percent and 4.6 percent growth of last year respectively.
The Survey shows that trade and hotels, and construction sectors recorded a boom during the year, registering 3.9 percent and 4.2 percent growth as compared to negative growth of the last year. It mentions that the total volume of exports grew by 14.7 percent to Rs 43.31 billion in 8 months, while imports soared by 27.9 percent to Rs 117.48 billion. This has resulted in a whopping 37.1 percent rise in trade deficit to Rs 74.17 billion.
Despite the stir and instability, foreign investment commitment during the nine months of 2005/06 increased to Rs 1.54 million and 81 joint venture industries were issued with operating licenses. The Survey cites 4,556 cottage and small industries with Rs 1.87 billion in investment were added during the first 8 months of 2005/06.
Despite the rise in the number of industries, consumption of electricity in the industrial sector is projected to grow at slower rate of 37.21 percent as compared to 38.89 percent growth rate of the previous fiscal year. National energy consumption for 2005/06 is projected to increase by 3.34 percent to 8,904 tons oil equivalent (TOE).
Despite efforts to develop renewable energy sources, traditional sources continued to contribute 86.71 percent in the total energy consumption. Commercial and renewable energy contributed 12.72 percent and 0.56 percent respectively.
The number of electricity consumers is expected to increase by 10.4 percent, reaching 1.28 million people in the current fiscal year. Consumption of petroleum products, on the other hand, declined by 5.24 percent to 424,033 kiloliters in 8 months, whereas consumption of cooking gas increased by 59.38 percent to 81,025 tons. Consumption of coal is estimated to increase by 58.6 percent to 241 TOE during the year.
Sharma is a business reporter at the Kathmandu Post. Here is the original article.