KATHMANDU: Experts, government representatives, donors and the stakeholders including the beneficiaries came together today to explore the current social protection arrangement in Nepal while discussing on future directions Nepal may undertake to expand social protection. Efforts were also made to understand institutional setups and identify scope for integration and harmonization, which are believed to be the way towards universal social protection.
At a conference titled ‘On the path to universal social protection in Nepal’- The role of integration and harmonization’, social protection experts from Pakistan, India and Malawi also shared insights on building an integrated Social Assistance System and Institutional coordination for social protection and as well as for social protection reforms.
Inaugurating the programme jointly organized by Ministry of Finance, German Development Cooperation and GIZ, Finance Minister Dr Yubraj Khatiwada today said positive changes have been made in the field of social protection, which is constitutionally guaranteed for every citizen in the country. “Along with social protection, the government has also introduced health insurance for the citizens,” he said.
The Social Security Scheme has been recently launched as an addition to the social protection landscape of Nepal. The scheme, which covers medical benefits, safe motherhood, occupational accidents and old-age security of workers, is regarded as a strong investment into the health and well-being as well as the productivity of the labour force in the country.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the way forward and opportunities and challenges for expanding integrated social protection in Nepal, panelists representing various ministries discussed on the need for integrated social security policy, integrated information database, an embedded consolidated system where single registration which could help co-ordinate among ministries for integration and harmonization.
On the occasion, National Planning Commission member Dr Ram Kumar Phuyal said that the government has an overarching vision of reaching out to 40 per cent of the population in next five years and is preparing an integrated framework for social protection to avoid any fragmentation of program.
Likewise, Secretary at the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security Mahesh Prasad Dahal said that the government is very committed towards social security to its citizen, and that the inauguration of the social protection fund a week ago was a testimony towards that end.
Secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen Chandra Kumar Ghimire said that if social protection plan is targeted well then it will be a success while Joint Secretary at Ministry of Finance Shreekrishna Nepal was of the view that the social protection programs are largely dependent on the tax revenue and hence the core concern is how to sustain it. “When we talk about right based approach and it is supposed to be universal then we need to discuss more on financing part—both financial management and governance part as well,” said Nepal.
Also speaking on the occasion, senior social protection specialist at the World Bank Group Jasmine Rajbhandary said that social protection investment has increased this year by 22 per cent which is 4.7 per cent of the total budget. “However, in order to make social protection a success, it should address inclusion, poverty and resilience.”
Similarly, in another panel discussion on “Balancing expansion and integration – tightrope walk or business as usual”, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security Ram Prasad Ghimire highlighted government’s commitment to ensuring social protection as guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal.
Likewise, Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population Ram Prasad Thapaliya said the government is focused on expanding the health insurance programme to 77 districts.
Director General, Department of National ID and Civil Registration Dipak Kafle shared that within next three years Nepal will have a full-fledged integrated model data management. “These problems will be solved once we have national ID and ministry of home affairs is very careful about people’s privacy and data security which will be a primary data with biometric system.”
Executive Director of Health Insurance Board Ramesh Kumar Pokharel said that the quality of data is very important in order to effectively implement the policy. “Integration of data is very important and due to lack of identification of ultra-poor is also hindering the process of enrollment in the health insurance.
Administrator at the Employee Provident Fund Tulasi Prasad Gautam said that since national ID will replace the citizenship certificates so it will not be entirely new for Nepal. In response to a query about possible exclusion of children, Gautam said that the local governments will take care of such civil registration.
Charge d’affaires at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr Claudia Hiepe said that social protection can play a key role in ensuring that broad economic developments are translated into individual improvements in the quality of life. She said that German Development Cooperation together with a variety of other bi-and multilateral partners is ready to support the Government of Nepal in navigating its course towards universal social protection.
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