Airy-fairy Announcements Won’t Work
Since the Oli-led government was installed, many commitments have come out. It is self-explanatory that the government was formed when the country was going through a bad patch due to the Madhes agitation and India’s undeclared trade embargo against the country. There was a scarcity of virtually everything, that of petroleum products and medicines being the most prominent. All the people were writhing for petrol, diesel oil, cooking gas, medicines and other essential commodities. But the government, instead of smoothing the supply situation, connived at the black marketeers, further exacerbating the supply situation.
When housewives were chafing under the acute shortage of cooking, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli rumbled forth that the age of gas cylinders had come to an end and every household would get piped gas. This vainglorious statement by none other than the prime minister served only to add insult to injury. Experts are of the opinion that even if natural gas available in the country is explored, processed and supplied to households through a pipeline, it will last only one-and-a-half to two years. So this dream project is not feasible.
As soon as the prime minister assumed the office, he declared that wire bridges, locally known as tuins, would be replaced by suspension bridges within two years. Over six months have since passed, but even preparations seem not to have been made in this direction.
The prime minister is also dreaming about owning a shipping line with a fleet of Nepali ships that will sail the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Nepal had a ship in the past. Perhaps, the prime minister would like to regain the past glory. At a time when Nepal Airlines Corporation is not in a position to operate its services effectively, the prime minister would do well to strengthen the corporation instead of thinking about owning a shipping line that may not succeed in this age of competition and syndication.
There are also other commitments made by the prime minister. In January, he made a tall claim that loadshedding would come to a grinding halt within one year. He also talked about not only producing hydropower for domestic consumption but also exporting surplus hydropower to neighbouring countries like India. Six months have elapsed since the prime minister’s announcement, and we are still suffering 10 hours of loadshedding a day.
The energy minister recently claimed that loadshedding would be restricted to five or six hours a day during the coming winter. Going by the prime minister’s proud announcement, loadshedding should have been eliminated by the coming winter. But even there is doubt that loadshedding will have come down to five or six hours a day by then.
The budget for the fiscal year 2016/17 has just been out. It is full of ambitious plans, programmes and projects. Generating 10,000 MW of electricity in 10 years’ time, building electric and other railways, constructing metros and so on have been encapsulated in the budget. These infrastructure development projects are a necessity in today’s context when transportation has gone haywire and one, whether a driver or a pedestrian, needs to manoeuvre towards one’s destination.
The immediate need of the hour is developing an organised transport system rather than go for railways, flyovers or metros that will take a long time even if they are meant for actual operation. Once a survey was made for the construction of flyovers and metros. But it could not move beyond the survey stage.
The prime minister has also made other commitments. Attaining autarky in textiles and rooting out poverty from the face of the country are other ambitious plans. The country imports virtually everything. Even minor items are being imported. The government enjoys importing a vast number of things from needles to motor cars. By doing so, it can collect a lot of revenue in the form of tax. This may be one of the reasons why the government has adopted a policy of importing virtually everything even though it talks about import substitution.
The prime minister recently claimed that the government was doing things that were not even imagined by the people. Now the question is, what has the government done? The sufferings of the earthquake victims are still there. The prime minister’s promise of constructing temporary shelters for the earthquake victims before the onset of the monsoon has gone down the plug-hole. Over a year has rolled by since the earthquake rattled the country last year. But no sound arrangements have been in place till now for the relief of the earthquake victims.
Making or conceiving of plans, however ambitious they may be, is easy. But what actually matters is implementation. Yes, the Oli-led government has made many ambitious plans, but their implementation is highly doubtful. The government does not deem it necessary to practice what it preaches. Further, there is a tendency in a government to embark upon its own plans and projects with a clean slate by throwing on the heap-scrap the plans and projects formulated or initiated by its predecessors.
In Nepal, a government lasts for one or two years, sometimes even less than a year, whereas most of the plans are of a long-term nature. When a government collapses, its plans will hardly be followed by its successor. This is one of the reasons why development plans often conk out in Nepal.
So the government and political parties should be very chary of what they announce in public. They should avoid making airy-fairy announcements. They should announce only those things that are going to happen in the future and that are not for the sake of public or media consumption.
It is not necessary to do things that are in the wildest dreams of the people. What matters is doing things that will contribute to the welfare of Nepal and its people and that will have a positive impact on the socio-economic sectors of the country. Generating electricity sufficient to eliminate loadshedding is far more important than talking about exporting electricity to India and other neighbouring countries. The prime minister and other leaders should exercise restraint while talking about ambitious plans lest such talk should be the joke of the day.