The Best Foot Forward
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
With the induction of UML Chairperson KP Oli as the prime minister of the country and the formation of a small and smart council of ministers, the left coalition government appears all set to take to wings. For the left government which has ensconced itself in power with the support of masses desperate for change in their economic life and the early end to chaotic politics, the challenges, however, are as high as the sky.
Prime Minister KP Oli has started his second inning after former prime minister Deuba passed baton to him in not too pleasant sequence of post-election events. But it will be too early to expect him to come out with a credible plan of action any time soon though the cautious and thoughtful decisions he has taken so far give reason to believe that he has put his best foot forward.
Prime Minister Oli is well known for a cautious approach to problems and their skilful management. After winning the election, he evinced the quality of a mature statesman by waiting to negotiate and clinch a deal of unification with the CPN-MC first before showing any rush to form government.
His patience and perseverance paid rich dividends. The two largest left parties signed a seven point agreement for party unification paving the way for a monolithic left government. This was a master stroke on Oli’s part that foiled the attempt of the Nepali Congress and the RJP to lure the CPN-MC away from the UML leaving the party with largest majority to play the second fiddle.
Prime Minister Oli demonstrated a true craftsmanship in negotiating a way out from the tricky situation which emerged out of the electoral numbers game. The electoral alliance between UML and CPN-MC had helped them to ride an electoral wave to a sweeping victory. But there were ideological, political and organisational issues to be sorted out. There were spoilers and competing inter-party lobbies expecting windfalls.
KP Oli surmounted all the challenges and steered the crucial negotiation to success with confidentiality and dexterity. Now that the two largest left parties are on an irreversible course of unity, the people who had voted these parties to power think that the battle for stability and prosperity is but won.
Before forming the left government, Chairman Oli also took bold steps to revamp diplomatic relation with India by according welcome to Indian Minister for Foreign Affairs Shusma Swaraj. This has helped dispel the mist of distrust that had lingered since Oli’s first tenure in the high office of the head of the government.
Even after forming the government PM Oli has set afoot a process o evolve a broadest possible consensus by bringing the Terai-based political parties on board. According to media reports, a negotiation between PM Oli and FSF Chairperson Upendra Yadav has reached close to a deal. The FSF has been demanding for constitution amendment and UML has consistently maintained that constitution is not an immutable and irreversible document. It is subject to amendment if it is incompatible with changing contexts. Except for clauses whose amendment may impinge upon the sovereignty and independence of the country, all constitutional provisions are amenable to change.
As expected, PM Oli has shown discernment in choosing his aides and ministerial colleagues also to ensure that the people, whom he places his trust, hold high integrity and remain unblemished. All the six ministers he has chosen so far are reputed people both in terms of ideological clarity, integrity and efficiency. His decision to pick Lalbabu Pandit as the Minister for Population and Environment and Dr. Yubaraj Khatiwada as the Minister for Finance is being hailed from all quarters as the most strategic decision.
KP Oli-led government has come to power with a mandate to govern for five years which will play a critical role in implementing the vision of political stability and economic prosperity of the Nepali society on the plank of which the left alliance has made it to power. In his first stint as the PM Oli was able to inspire the people with a dream of prosperity. During this term, he will have the burden to translate these dreams into reality.
This time over, PM Oli is also privileged to lead the strongest government ever formed through election since 1990. But it will be naive to believe that the new government will have a smooth sailing. Despite having clean poeople at the top, the government has taken over a bureaucracy which is corrupt to the core, inefficient and slack. If the Prime Minister fails to overhaul bureaucracy and eliminate corruption, the coming five years may be lost in the labyrinth of indecision, chaos and confusion.
At present, the deepest rot lies in the area of infrastructure building. An entire overhaul is needed in the policies governing the contractual processes, project implementation and maintaining of quality standard of the works done. The government needs to formulate harsh policies which entertain zero tolerance towards corruption and commission taking.
Commission taking in purchase, procurement and and logistical arrangement is spreading in bureaucracy like a cancer. This has become a channel of supplementing income of perpetually underpaid employees. The present government should take step to ensure a handsome pay to the civil servants but should not hesitate to axe them if they are found to be indulging in corruption.
The government should adopt a policy of addressing the problem of unemployment and labour drain by creating economic activities through implementing mega projects. It would focus on building at least three large scale hydroelectricity projects with an aim to generate three thousand megawatts of electricity in five years. This will meet the energy need of the country and will establish it as a commercially viable export commodity.
In the meantime, the present government may also do well to focus on completing fast tracks linking Kathmandu with Nijgadh and Kathmandu with Rasuwagadi. Simultaneous efforts should also be made to get railway connectivity from Rasuwagadi to Kathmandu and from Indian border to Kathmandu mobilising assistance from both the Chinese and the Indian governments.
During the coming five years, the government should make massive investment in manufacturing and agro-industries. To increase productivity of land, the government should make massive investment for expanding irrigation and introducing scientific farming. It should develop at least three free industrial zones in the country capable of creating strong export-based industrial estates in the country. The people in power should understand that the clue to prosperity is export trade.
There are plenty of other things calling attention and investment. But the present government should bite only as much as it can chew. Nepal cannot become Singapore or Malaysia in five years. However, this country can be put on an irreversible path to prosperity if the government works with proper prioritisation and judicious use of limited resources.