Nepal And Development Perspective

Uttam Maharjan

In recent years, the state affairs of Nepal have not been on track. There is chaos here, there and everywhere. It took nine years for the constitution compatible with the republican setup to be promulgated. Even though the constitution has not been fully implemented, there are points of disgruntlement on the part of some political forces, especially the Madhes-based parties, surrounding some provisions of the constitution.
First, as soon as the constitution was promulgated in September 2015 after a long exercise in the wake of the powerful earthquake that rattled the country in April 2015, the country had to face Madhesi agitation followed by the implicit trade embargo at the hands of the Indian establishment. Both the agitation and the embargo inflicted untold suffering on the people. But the government failed to take effective measures to alleviate the public suffering. rather, it, in collusion with the black marketers, added to the woes of the people against the principle of public weal. This situation lasted six months.

Coalition culture
There is political instability in the country. No government can last a full term. No political party can garner votes enough to form a government on its own. This has lead to the culture of coalition. Even the present government lead by Sher Bahadur Deuba is a government composed of various political parties. The government has already conducted the local polls and declared the dates for holding the provincial and federal assemblies on November 26 and December 7 of this year. After these elections, a new government will be formed on the basis of the results of the elections. Viewed thus, the tenure of the present government is short-lived.
Despite this, the Prime Minister has recently expanded the Cabinet. Now the Cabinet with 54 ministers is the largest cabinet in the history of the country. There is a likelihood of the Cabinet bulging out even further to please most of the political parties. So there is political disorder in the first place. The government should take care of public welfare first. But it is busy pleasing the political parties by inducting their leaders into the Cabinet even without considering the dent it will make in the state’s coffers.
In a least developed country like ours, it is imperative to accelerate development activities across the country. For this, huge funds are required, which can be mobilised through either internal or external sources or both. But those in power are not concerned about how to mobilise funds; rather, they are always thinking of how to draw on state funds for their benefits. They do not hesitate to distribute such funds among themselves and their cadres on one pretext or the other. So it can be said that the country lacks healthy political culture.
Most of the government enterprises that were established for the benefit and convenience of the people are in the doldrums. It is not surprising that when private organizations are prospering, their government counterparts are on the downgrade. This is mainly due to political interference and, more importantly, political appointments. The politically appointed bosses are good at currying favour with prominent leaders and have political blessings at their disposal. Even if they commit irregularities or indulge in the misuse of office, action cannot be easily taken against them due to strong political protection. This is the main reason why the state enterprises cannot function well.
Corruption has been spreading its tentacles for years in the country. Nowadays, there is an open culture of corruption. But those who perpetrate corruption are roaming freely. Even the courts tend to give them a clean chit. All this has encouraged the corrupt to indulge in more and more irregularities.
On the other hand, even development projects are grabbed by contractors by dint of their political reach. The accelerator of the development projects needs to be floored to achieve the development targets. At present, the country has two main targets: graduation to the status of developing country by 2022 and meeting the sustainable development goals by 2030. The other target is to restructure the country on the federal model, which will take shape after the provincial and federal elections and the restructuring of the state affairs in line with the federal fabric.
The leaders are saying that the country will pick up development after it goes into the federal model in a full-fledged manner. But the leaders hardly practise what they preach. Before the promulgation of the constitution, they were parroting that the country would go into the overdrive of development after the constitution had been promulgated. But as things stand, nothing of this sort has happened till now.
Development is a continuous process whose sustainability exacts foresighted leadership. For the country to get the status of developing country, development projects should go on like clockwork. The government and political leaders should change their mindset and focus on the country and the people rather than on their self-interests. The government should adopt a zero tolerance policy and take tough punitive measures against those who indulge in corruption and irregularities so that no corrupt figure is granted political protection and can enjoy impunity.
Besides, contracts for development projects should be awarded to qualified and competent companies unlike at present when such contracts are awarded to those who have political sway and protection. There are several instances when contractors run away without completing the works they are assigned or when they get payments without completing the works. All this has happened due to the political nexus they enjoy.

Noble task
If such a situation continues, the country will not develop even after the federal system has come into existence. It is worth noting that no political system is bad per se; it is the ministers or leaders manning the system that make a difference. So, it is more than imperious to nip in the bud the ever-spreading culture of political protection and the state of impunity if the county really wants to be on the pedestal of development. For this, political commitment to and will for developing the country by gentrifying the political, bureaucratic and other mechanisms are required. The government and the political leaders have a pivotal role to play in this direction. And there is not even an iota of doubt that other stakeholders, including the general people, will side with the government and the political leaders in the noble task of nation building.

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