Are We Close To The End Of Tunnel?
Over a decade ago when the peace process started people had a great hope that a new era of peace and development would begin soon as with the signing of the comprehensive peace accord in November 2006 the terrible days of armed conflict had ended. But the hopes were dashed when the political transition lingered for nearly a decade. When the first Constituent Assembly (CA) failed to promulgate the new constitution, the political situation was so hopeless that the political parties had entrusted a non-political figure to lead the government and hold the other CA elections.
After over nine years of political wrangling since the peace process, the major political parties came to a common ground to promulgate the new constitution in September 2015. But, a section of the Nepalese society as a whole was dissatisfied and kept hitting the street now and again which cast shadow over the smooth implementation of the constitution. Hope of new era were also shattered by the devastating earthquake and government’s lackluster response to it and the subsequent Indian blockade. The continuous protest of the Madhesi parties against the constitution had made many that even the new constitution would not be implemented smoothly although leaders kept on saying that everything would go well at the end. Common people felt being trapped in a dark tunnel with regard to development, peace and prosperity in the country.
But, now there are auspicious signs that signal the end of that tunnel, some straws to clutch and be more optimistic. The most encouraging is the latest development with regard to settling the grievances of the Madhes-based parties or the United Democratic Madhesi Front which will ensure conduction of the local polls in participation of all. It is reported that an understanding has been made between the government and the UDMF in this regard. Accordingly, the major parties including the main opposition CPN-UML will endorse an amendment to the constitution, particularly Article 274, to address the demands of the UDMF and a powerful commission will be formed to decide over changes in the boundaries of the provinces, most probably the boundaries of the province no. 4 and 5 as this has been one major demands of the UDMF. The outcome of the meeting of the ruling parties and the UDMF in presence of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on Friday, March 31, has something to make most of all hopeful of a peaceful local election although the outcome entails many demerits. It should be noted here that PM Prachanda had been successful to bring the main opposition UML and the UDMF together to hold a joint meeting for the first in a year before he flew to a weeklong China visit on March 23. And he had formed an informal task force comprised of representatives of the ruling parties and the UDMF to resolve the differences and ensure UDMF participation in the local polls.
The second ray that signals the end of the tunnel could be the projected growth rate of 6.2 per cent. Recently, the Asian Development Bank has projected that Nepal’s economic growth rate could be between 5.2 to 6.2 per cent. Compared to other developing countries and our own situation, the rate is almost nothing. But compared to the trends in the last few years and the previous projection of below 5 per cent growth, it is a big step forward. Even the second largest economy, China, made only 6.5 per cent growth rate in 2016.
The ADB projection was based on the end of power outage in some cities, timely expenditure of the government budget and a good monsoon for crops. To what extent the ADB projection comes out to be true will be clear within a few months. Even then, it is clear that the government has not been able to mobilise the development budget in time which also caused liquidity crunch in the country giving rise to interest rates in the banks.
If the projection comes true, present government should be credited for it simply because it is the government that brought an end to load-shedding at least in some cities including the capital city, Kathmandu, which was something of beyond imagination for all before the government did it. We should just remind ourselves how the government steps to end the power outage was ridiculed in the beginning, particularly by the media close to the main opposition party, although the common people hailed it.
It is now certain that this nasty load-shedding will be a thing of the past within a year in Nepal which will definitely have a good impact on industrial investment and growth. Moreover, big infrastructure development projects such as Kerung-Kathmandu railway, East-West railway, Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track are bound to be completed within a few years. PM Prachanda’s commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative of China has ensured that within a few years after the Chinese rail reaches Kerung in 2020, we will have railway from Kerung to Kathmandu which will help Nepal diversify its trade and have a better inland connectivity with the second largest economy. Together with this, if the Nepalese army completes the construction of the fast-track and if the construction of the East-west railway gets momentum, if irrigation facilities are available in the southern plains called Terai or Madhes, an economic boom is bound to happen in Nepal.
Besides completing the projects of national pride which indicate the fast track, the mid-hill highway, the upper Tamakoshi hydropower and others, a big challenge is curbing corruption. Everybody knows corruption is rampant, misuse of development budget is widespread and oversight or supervision mechanisms are either inefficient or turning a blind eye to all these. If this ghost of corruption is not done with, even if there is an impressive economic growth, the living standard of the common people will remain the same and only a section of the society will exploit the growth. But, for the present, the challenge is to hold all three tiers of election by January 2018.