Addressing the petrolemum price hike from the hot seat

June 2008; The Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat (Nepali Congress) and one of Nepal's leading economists and former Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission, Dr. Shankar Sharma were the guests for one of the latest edition of the BBC World Service Trust's discussion programme Sajha Sawal (Common Questions) as part of the UNDP's Participation in Peace and Constitution Building Project.

In front of an audience of around 80 people, Dr Mahat explained the justification for the increases in fuel prices. Dr Mahat conceded that prices would almost certainly rise again as Government subsidies are not sustainable in the long term.

Dr. Sharma said that much more investment was required into Nepal's hydro-electric industry to help Nepal to become less reliant on oil. From a secondary audience of farmers and farm workers in Nawalparasi (West Nepal), the panelists were told how the rise in fuel prices were making it much more difficult for farmers to survive and to make a living. Dr Mahat was asked why there was no subsidized fuel for farmers in a country where 90% of the population works in the farming industry.

A metal worker from Banke (Mid West Nepal) told the panel how Addressing the petrolemum price hike from the hot seat ! he could no longer make any money from welding as he could no longer afford to buy fuel for his generator and that he had fallen down to the ranks of unemployed people.

Both panelists agreed that it should be a priority for the new Government to provide stable conditions to foster economic growth and that the panel claimed could only be done through consensus politics.

Sajha Sawal is broadcast on the BBC Nepali Service and on more than 55 partner FM radio stations every Sunday evening at 9 pm. Radio Nepal broadcasts the Programme every Tuesday morning from 8.15 am. Sajha Sawal is shown on Kantipur Television every Wednesday evening at 9 pm.