Good Governance And Development

Uttam Maharjan

With both Houses - the House of Representatives and the National Assembly - in place, the federal system of governance can be said to have got off the ground. On the one hand, the tedious transition period has finally come to an end, while on the other a federal republican system has come into existence in reality, making Nepal the youngest republic in the world. Although the system of governance has changed, leaders at the helm of state affairs are the same. Barring a few, the Prime Minister and ministers are the same old faces. Still, induction of Yuvaraj Khatiwada as Minister of Finance and Lal Babu Pandit as Minister of Population and Environment has created some ripples across the country.

As soon as he assumed the mantle of the Ministry of Finance, Yuvaraj Khatiwada pledged to make reforms in the economy by ridding it of corruption. The shocking discovery that the employees working at Tribhuvan International Airport customs are causing a whopping loss of Rs. 350 million a day in collusion with businessmen has raised the eyebrows of people. Khatiwada has heavily come down on the TIA customs officials and instructed them to pull their socks up, hinting at zero tolerance towards corruption. Likewise, Pandit has announced some measures aimed at improving the environment, vowing to free Kathmandu of pollution in a year.
As the system of governance has changed drastically, it will not be an easy proposition for the present government to manage state affairs. With increase in government units entailed by the three-tier structure of federal, provincial and local governments, the economy will have to bear the cyclopean brunt of cost. The economy is in the doldrums now. On the one hand, the flow of remittance money is dwindling due to issues in labour destination countries like Qatar and Malaysia, and on the other the national budget has been stuck in state coffers. During the first six months of this fiscal year, only 28 per cent of the total budget has been spent. This has hampered development activities. Further, sources of revenue are limited. In such a situation, it is quite a job for the government to harmonise revenue and expenditure.
There is rampant corruption and irregularities everywhere. The economy of the country is deemed not large. If there had been no corruption and loss of revenue, the economy would have been larger than what it is today. The loss of revenue in customs and corrupt practices at the land revenue offices is a case of point. Loss of Rs. 350 million a day due to corruption at TIA customs is a not small deal. This is the reason why government employees prefer lucrative offices like customs and land revenue offices. In fact, corruption has been a hydra-headed problem. Leaders have spent much time and energy in vowing to rid the country of corruption; not but what, corruption is spreading its tentacles across the country.
The case involving the Tax Settlement Commission once created ripples across the country. But the way Chudamani Sharma got off with meagre bail (Rs. 10 million bail for embezzlement of Rs. one billion as per the lawsuit and Rs. 4.5 million bail for unaccounted for property worth Rs. 43 million in a subsequent case) shows that corruption cannot be eradicated so easily in the country. Persistence of such a situation has frustrated people beyond measure. In fact, collusion between government employees, businessmen and political leaders is eating holes in the economy of the country.
Good governance is the key to economic prosperity in any country. Lack of good governance is found more in underdeveloped than in developed countries. Our leaders are never sick and tired of talking about good governance and zero tolerance towards corruption but in reality corruption is increasing by leaps and bounds in the country. Corruption is rife virtually in every sector. One of the issues being raised by Dr Govinda KC pertains to affiliation given to medical colleges through bribery.
In this new context marked by a drastic change of the governance system, the bad legacy of the past like corruption and anomalies needs to be left behind and the government should work in the interest of the country and people. There is nothing the government cannot do. The only thing lacking is the will and intention. If the government shows the will, it can carry on development activities without a hitch.
The government should also work towards decriminalising society by breaking through the networks of crime. The upper hand dons have in government contracts and other activities has affected development works. On the one hand, the quality of work remains inferior, whereas the works do not get completed in time, thus resulting in cost overruns. What is more, the government is forced to remain a spectator due to the political influence and protection the dons have at their disposal.
Likewise, the extortion culture is flourishing, which is a matter of concern for businessmen. Some businessmen have expressed their concern that it is difficult for them to operate businesses in the country. It is the right time for the government to take strong action against crime and corruption so that they cannot raise their heads. It will make a lot of differences if only crime and corruption are nipped in the bud.

National interest
The government has a lot of things to do to sustain the bloated administration of the country due to three-tier governments and to improve the economy. For this, those running the governments- federal, provincial and local- must change their working style and work by keeping national interests above their individual or partisan interests. In the present-day context, the most important factor is elimination of corruption and irregularities, followed by mobilisation of income and revenue by giving a fillip to infrastructure development, hydropower, tourism, industry, agriculture and other sectors. This will prepare the country to graduate to the status of developing country. After all, the struggle of people in the cause of ushering in the present federal system of governance must be recognised by dint of a complete reshuffle of the economy of the country with a resultant uplift of the standard of living of the people.

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