Federal Experiment

Now with the federal system taking its root, the provincial governments have started rolling up their sleeves to achieve desired prosperity for their people. In addition to budget set aside by the federal governments for their development, the provinces are exploring the ways to tap potentials available in their territories. Virtually, all provincial governments have presented their programmes and policies, which reflected their vision of economic development and aspirations for durable peace. They are now bracing to unveil annual budget that will significantly consolidate the federal structure and decentralise the political and economic rights of the people. While doing groundwork for the judicious distribution of resources for their provinces, chief ministers have spoken their minds on how to boost economy with the limited financial and human resources. Chief Minister of Province 1, Sherdhan Rai, has announced that his government has set a target to fetch around 500,000 foreign tourists in the province in five years. For this, according to CM Rai, the Biratnagar airport would be upgraded into a regional one within six months, enabling it to operate air services to Patna, Delhi and Mumbai of India. This requires building infrastructures and facilities for the travellers. Air connectivity is the key to attracting tourists from outside the country. Province 1 possesses huge natural resources, historical, tourist and religious sites. Likewise, Karnali Province Chief Minister, Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, announced that his government will bring budget focusing on the production and infrastructure building. Shahi said that the priorities would be on the management of arable land, medicinal herbs and other local resources. The Karnali Province is the economic backwater and the provincial administration seeks to evolve it into digital and organic zone.

Meanwhile, Province 4 Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung has identified poverty as the common problem of all provinces and called for harmonious cooperation between the centre, provinces and local units to overcome it. Modernising agriculture and developing entrepreneurship is in the priorities of ths government. Federalism is not only a new dispensation but also very expensive one. Based on the principle of self-rule and shared rule, it is new experiment for Nepal that mostly remained a unitary state in the past. It demands high level understanding and cooperation between the three-tier governments – federal, provincial and local. The constitution has envisaged cooperative federalism but some parties have called for greater autonomy for provinces at the cost of centre and local units. The national charter has granted sweeping rights to the local units, which some federalists do not like. The three-tier governments may come into conflict over the distribution of budget as some CMs have already expressed their reservation about the ‘meager’ disbursement of budget for their governments. The initial years of federal experiment may be fraught with challenges and tension but they will come to terms over the new setup in course of time. After all, it is stability, prosperity, happiness and enduring peace that Nepali people are yearning for decades. The nation embraced the new political system with a view to meeting the overarching goals and the three-layer governments are expected to work in tandem to this end.

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