Bringing Development On Track

 

Uttam Maharjan

With the establishment of three-tier governments at local, provincial and federal levels, the discourse on development should now take a centre stage. However, as things stand even local bodies have not been able to function properly, let alone provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. This may be because people’s representatives have assumed the mantle of local governance after a hiatus of 15 years and provincial assemblies are a new exercise for Nepal.

Challenges

The challenges before Nepal are now peace, prosperity and development. As the Left Alliance has dominated the local, provincial and federal governments, it may be taken as a boon for the country, where political instability due to a frequent change in governments was a setback to development until recently. The present federal government is expected to last a full term, thus providing the country with much-needed political stability that has been evading the country since the introduction of a multi-party democracy in the country 28 years ago.

The successive governments in the past have unveiled many programmes for development but such programs have hardly met with success due particularly to lethargy in implementing them. The trend in the past was to announce development plans with fanfare and adopt an insouciant attitude towards translating them into action, thus forcing them into a whimper. Further, some of the plans were over-ambitious or just chimerical.

Nepal has adopted a federal republican system, which is saturated in public aspirations and expectations. The government should see to it that such public aspirations and expectations are not shattered under any circumstances. There is not even an iota of doubt that people have catapulted the Left Alliance to power, hoping that their election plank of political stability and economic prosperity will turn into a reality and transform the face of the country.

However, all has not fared well, not least as far as the complete shape of the government is concerned. The government is being formed on a piecemeal basis. As soon as the government was formed, the number of ministries was reduced to 18 from a jumbo 31. But it has now been increased to 21 to make room for more political leaders without considering the expenditure factor, which is not welcome. Further, some ministerial berths have been set aside for the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal. However, the party is yet to join the government due to a lack of progress in negotiations on conditions of the party: amendment to some Clauses of the constitution.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is fearful that unless the government attains a clear or two-thirds majority in the parliament, there will be every threat that it may collapse. So the Prime Minister is trying to bring aboard the government the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal even by amending the constitution. This move on his part, however, does not commend itself to people and other parties. The constitution is not a monolithic document but it is too early and immature to amend the constitution again, which has already been amended to please Madhesi parties, when it is in the stages of being implemented. If there arises an exigent need in the process of the constitution being implemented for amending some Clauses to keep abreast with the times and prevailing circumstances, such Clauses need to be amended. But it is not necessary to amend the constitution to appease Madhesi parties. Whether the Madhesi parties join the government or not does not matter much.    

Instead of focusing on constitution amendment, the government should pay heed to the agendas of development and economic prosperity. And development projects need to be formulated based on ground realities, not on whims.

In recent times, Prime Minister Oli has again raised the topic of railways and the Nepali shipping line. During the Madhesi agitation and the Indian trade embargo in 2015-016, Oli was pilloried when he talked about supply of piped gas to every household, production of electricity from wind, operation of ships with Nepali flags in the Indian Ocean and suchlike things. Oli has repeated almost the same things now.

This is not the time for indulging in building castles in the air. Yes, what Oli has talked about is not impossible. Such facilities are available in developed countries. In Nepal, development works are very slow. It takes years for a stretch of a road to be constructed or repaired. Repairs of the Mugling-Narayangadh road that are moving at a snail’s pace resulting in cost overruns are a case in point. The Melamchi project has been dragging on ad nauseam to the extent that people have given up their hope that Melamchi water will come to Kathmandu any time soon. There is also talk about making smart cities, introducing the tram service, developing monorails and the metro and so on. All these projects are, however, in limbo now. In such a situation, how can people buy Oli’s assurance that railways and shipping services will come within two years.

 

Accelerator

So it is the time for formulating practical development plans, plans that are feasible and can be completed in a short period of time. Important sectors like education, healthcare, drinking water, transportation, sanitation, agriculture, trade, industry and the environment need to be revamped and reinvigorated. After improving such sectors, the government may think of making smart cities and introducing trams, monorails, underground railways and the like. People can now see through the tricks leaders try to play on them. So the people cannot be duped any more.

 In order to win the confidence and trust of the people, the leaders must work in the interests of the country and people. Therefore, the coming five years need to be taken as the half-decade of development and economic prosperity and the accelerator of development needs to be literally floored so as to attain development in the strictest sense. After all, the government needs to show the will of effort to graduate the country to the status of developing country.    

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