Nepal allocates US$230 million for the procurement of vaccines against COVID-19; scraps PAF

By Laxman Datt Pant

Nepal allocates US$230 million for the procurement of vaccines against COVID-19; scraps PAF

Unveiling the US$14.22 billion budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2021/22 on May 29, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has allocated a total of US$230 million for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

Also within the announcement, the GoN disclosed it had scrapped the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) Nepal, a special programme established in 2003 to bring excluded communities into mainstream development. The PAF came under public scrutiny after the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority of Nepal filed cases against 50 senior officials in 2015 and 2016. Financed by the GoN through a succession of IDA grants from the World Bank, PAF was chaired by the Prime Minister of Nepal.

Presenting the annual budget for the FY 2021-22 in a televised address, Bishnu Prasad Paudel, Finance Minister of Nepal, said, “Saving lives from the COVID-19 pandemic, recovering dented economy, and promoting social security are the GoN’s key priorities at the moment.” The government is committed to sourcing vaccines from manufacturers and countries and vaccinating people free of charge, he added.

The budget presented through the ordinance is 11.73% higher than that of the current FY i.e., 2020-21. However, this budget could not be presented at the House of Representatives (HoR) as it was dissolved on May 22 by Bidya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal, in the face of fresh elections.

  • The fund allocated for the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) of Nepal totals US$1.05 billion
  • As many as 2.11 million people have been vaccinated with a first dose of the vaccine in Nepal and 654,851 people have now received both jabs, according to MoHP
  • The government has allocated US$34.53 million for the procurement of medical equipment including ICUs, HDUs, and ventilators required for the treatment of COVID-19
  • The amount allocated for the procurement of medicines is US$48.35 million
  • The government has also allocated a total of US$11.22 million for the construction of a 300-bed infectious disease hospital in Kathmandu and one 50-bed hospital each of the provinces in Nepal
  • The budget allocated for constructing basic hospitals at every local level in Nepal is US$53.10 million and US$64.75 million has been allocated to extend health insurance programs at the local level
  • The Economic Survey of FY 20120/21 released on May 28 stated that Nepal would achieve maximum economic growth of 4% but, in aiming to control COVID-19, the GoN has targeted growth of 7% for the new FY
  •  Likewise, the inflation target is set at 6.5%
  • According to the budget, no payment will be due for the use of up to 20,000 liters of drinking water on a monthly basis
  • The government has also announced a 33% increment in all types of social security allowances
  • US$103 million has been allocated to create jobs for 200,000 people under the Prime Minister Employment Programme
  • Approximately 300 bridges are to be constructed in the new FY and 1,629 MW of electricity will be added to the national grid

Meanwhile, 800,000 doses of Vero Cell, the China manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, are arriving in Kathmandu tomorrow with a Nepal Airlines flight leaving for Beijing today to transport the vaccines which are part of the announcement made by the Chinese President on May 26.

This vaccine, manufactured by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd (BIBP) under Sinopharm, was approved for emergency use against COVID-19 in Nepal in February this year.