Chandan Kumar Mandal, The Kathmandu Post, 10 February 2018
The government has decided to extend the deadline for receiving the second installment of the financial grant meant for earthquake affected families by mid-April.
The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Directive Committee meeting Friday decided to further extend the deadline so that more affected families will get the benefit from the government’s financial assistance.
The 11th meeting of the committee, held at the Prime Minister’ Residence at Baluwatar reached the decision to set the new deadline that expired in mid-January.
According to the NRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Yubaraj Bhusal, the decision was necessary to encourage more families to build their houses that may have been delayed due to some reasons.
“We could send engineers only in January. Similarly, masons were not available as well as there was price hike of construction materials. Considering these difficulties, the committee has decided to set a new deadline,” said Bhusal. The deadline for the third tranche, set for mid-June, was still intact.
A total of 767,705 private households were found eligible for housing grants in NRA’s survey, but only 684,468 families signed agreement with the NRA for the government’s housing assistance.
While 671,577 families received the first tranche of financial support for building houses, 166,320 received the second tranche out of total 249,203 applicants. NRA data shows 234,110 families have been approved for the second tranche. The number of families approved for the third tranche of government financial support is just 55,578 eligible families.
Construction of 95,713 private houses has been completed so far while construction of 295,774 houses is in progress with government’s financial assistance.
According to CEO Bhusal, PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the chair of the committee, expressed his satisfaction with the progress of reconstruction and asked the NRA to further expedite the recovery work.
The NRA disburses a grant of Rs. 300,000 to earthquake victims in three installments. The first installment includes 50,000, the second Rs 150,000 and the final is Rs. 100,000.
Revising the initial grant of Rs. 200,000 in 2016, the government had increased the private housing grants to Rs. 300,000. Recently the Cabinet, on January 24, decided to provide an additional assistance of Rs. 100,000, making the grant tally Rs. 400,000.
Decision to provide extra compensation of Rs. 100,000 has not only put financial pressure on the NRA, which has said that it is already under shortage of funds for the current fiscal year, but also added confusion over procedures.
The NRA has said neither has it received any formal decision from the government about the additional grants nor does it have money or clear guidelines about the recipient of the additional financial aid, announced by the Deuba-led government.
The latest decision has only invited for ‘complications,’ for the NRA, according said CEO Bhusal.
“We have not received the decision formally. We are not also clear about the recipients and the purpose of these additional grants. Will this be for supporting livelihoods, or extra support for building houses?
“What about those families, who have already built their house within the stipulated Rs. 300,000? Should we give this assistance to those families, whose houses have been built by NGOs or INGOs? Will those families yet to begin building their houses get this money?” wondered Bhusal.
In this fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs. 53 billion to the NRA which has said it would need another Rs. 100 billion to provide grants of already declared Rs. 300,000 to earthquake victim families. The NRA has reiterated it cannot accommodate the increased assistance in this fiscal year.
“We don’t have enough budget for the year so there is no prospect of providing this additional support. For now, we are moving ahead with the existing Rs. 300,000 grant model. If the government provides us the money in the next budget, we have no problem distributing it,” said Bhusal.