Working Style Under Federal System

Uttam Maharjan

With the Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies taking final shape, the federal system will come into existence in the country soon. The new government will be formed soon most probably under the leadership of the CPN-UML as it has garnered the highest number of seats in parliament. Members for the Upper House have already been elected with the UML winning the most seats. The provincial assemblies are heading towards a fully-fledged form. All these developments are welcome, which has put to rest the long-festering transition period. That the transition period persisted for around 12 years in the country is not a small deal.

The country had to face the Panchayat regime for about 30 years. The regime collapsed under the pressure of popular resentment, stoked by worldwide waves of liberalisation sweeping the world in 1990. The regime was then supplanted by a multi-party democracy, which gradually gave way to Loktantra (people’s democracy) and finally to the republican system.
It took over a decade to institutionalise the republican system due mainly to the ineptitude of the political parties. It would be germane to mention that the political leaders still blame the Panchayat system for the developmental backwaters that country is in. It has been 28 years- vis-à-vis the 30 years of the Panchayat regime- since the multi-party system was reintroduced in the country. What have the leaders done during all these years? Has the standard of living - one of the major yardsticks of measuring development - of the people risen during the period? Has industrial development taken place? Is the state of trade and commerce satisfactory?
If anything, the standard of living of most of the people is going downhill. The showing of the country on the industrial front is miserable. The industrial base has tumbled to pieces in the name of privatisation. The trade deficit is constantly rising. The country has performed below par on the agrarian front. Once a great exporter of food grain, the country imports almost everything now. In a nutshell, development has taken a nosedive, affecting the overall economy of the country.
The transition to the federal model is a costly affair. Still, it is a fait accompli and has to be adopted come hell or high water. Provision of the federal parliament at the centre and seven provincial assemblies, along with local level governments, would entail a huge cost. However, the federal system has now been part and parcel of the form of governance and there is no backtracking from the system.
In view of the gargantuan cost to be involved in operating the federal model, the political leaders should exercise their vision and change their leadership style for the better. They should learn the art of managing expenses and harnessing resources judiciously.
On the other hand, the country is rich in natural resources. Till now, no satisfactory use of these resources has been made. There are high prospects of making use of natural resources like hydropower and mining. As there are separate provinces and they are endowed with natural resources of one kind or the other, it is up to them to harness such resources for development. As a matter of fact, the provinces should compete with one another in pushing up development works in their areas.
The role of the provincial leadership will count much in this regard. The provincial leaders need to be focused on developing their provinces in close coordination and rapport with the federal parliament.
However, some people are trying to ratchet up the issue of language, ethnicity, religion, etc. in order to disturb the racial harmony existing in the country for years. Public resentment against the declaration of the provincial headquarters by the government has not died down yet. There was also a furor over the language in which the MPs of Province 2 took the oath of office and secrecy the other day. Moreover, the provinces are yet to be named. Debate may also crop up while naming them.
It would be prudent to name the provinces after geographical, religious or cultural names rather than colour them ethnically. So, extreme caution needs to be exercised while naming the provinces.
The country has already faced the decade-long Maoist insurgency and the powerful earthquake of 2015 followed by the Madhes agitation and the Indian trade embargo. These adversities have destroyed the infrastructure of the country to a great extent. However, the leaders do not seem to have realised this. It is alleged that the Deuba-led government, like previous governments, is making a dent in the state coffers by distributing funds among its cadres and other people haphazardly.
At a time when the country is about to go into the federal model in a fully-fledged manner by forming the new government, the present government is making rash decisions that would have an impact on the state coffers. The decisions made by the government are to be implemented by the new government. But KP Oli has already said that the new government may reverse or revoke such decisions. All this shows that the government and the leaders lack fiscal discipline.

The leaders should therefore forsake their parochial mentality and literally floor the accelerator of development. It is right time for them to realise how peer countries, which were at the same level as ours some fifty years ago, have flourished and become giant economies, while we have slid further and further into the abyss of underdevelopment.
It is not important that we have been able to abolish the monarchy and introduce the federal system of governance. What is more important is the level of development that can be notched up under the new system. So the leaders must change their atavistic mindset and show vibrant leadership and vision so that we can fully avail ourselves of the new federal system and present it as a striking example in the world arena. After all, the nation is the youngest republic in the world.

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