Bringing Reforms For Prosperity
When existing systems and work procedures fail to yield expected results, reform is called for. The level of backwardness Nepal is in points at the need of all round reform. It is in this time of intense prevalence of anomalies in various sectors despite the government effort to wipe out irregularities and the red tape that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has rightly emphasised on reform.
According to a news report, PM Oli stressed on the need for reform at foundation level for the development and prosperity of the country. While talking with the lawmakers from Province 2 at his official residence at Baluwatar on Saturday, the Prime Minister made it a point that creating a robust economic foundation at base was the need of the hour. What the PM said simply highlighted the government’s policy and programme for the upcoming fiscal year which was presented and endorsed by the federal parliament over a month ago - foundation for prosperity will be laid in the upcoming fiscal year.
Needless to say, anomalies are rampant. The effort of the government to speed up development works, make effective the service delivery and inject the common people with new hope has not borne fruits, and over five months have passed by since the government was formed. The optimism that was created when the government announced ending syndicate particularly in public transport sector and took action accordingly and when initiatives were taken to book the constructions companies dillydallying in completing development works in time has subsided now.
Just recently, different student unions had to announce the nationwide school shut down against the fee hike in private schools. Fortunately, the education strike did not happen as there was agreement among the agitating student unions, education ministry and association of private schools. At the moment, Dr. Govinda KC, an orthopedic surgeon who has already staged hunger strike for 15 times in the last six years particularly to reform medical education sector in the country, is in his 15th hunger strike at a remote Jumla district demanding that a medical college should be established in the backward Karnali province under the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences and that the Nepal Medical Education Bill registered at the parliament should incorporate issues included in the medical education ordinance as the ordinance was issued as per the agreement the previous government made with him.
Recently, the Supreme Court issued a verdict that the government should pay compensation to acquire any kind of land, even the one that is owned by the people by encroaching public areas, for building public infrastructure like roads. Maybe, because of this, Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari was reported to have said there was no chance to do anything new because the court would prevent such activities. The government is of course being criticised for declaring some areas in the capital city as prohibited zone for protest.
A report shows that only 70 per cent of capital/development budget will be spent in this fiscal year, and that also in such an imbalanced way that about 40 per cent of the budget was spent in 10 months while 30 per cent in the last two months. This anomaly in development budget expenditure is popularly known as Asaare Bikash in Nepal. As long as this Asaare Bikash (eleventh hour development works as fiscal year ends in the month of Asaar, and there is high chance of misuse of fund and low quality work) continues, there is no chance for quality development works in Nepal. And a recent news report read that illegal import meets over 80 per cent cloth demand of Nepal. If smuggling of consumer goods such as cloth is so high, one can imagine level of smuggling of other expensive goods.
Criticism of the government has started not because it has failed to deliver as expected, but because it has discontinued the reform it initiated such as ending syndicate in transport sector, taking action against defaulting contractors and owning up the medical education ordinance issued by previous government, and allowing the Asaare Bikash to continue. What people notice is the initiative of the government and the result, not the processes for all these. When there is only initiative and no result, the people take the initiative as a drama, a populist/publicity stunt. And people start criticising the government. It is interesting to note it here that in the standing committee meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) held on July 5 in which PM Oli as party chairman urged his comrades to defend the government, some standing committee members did critise the government for sluggishness.
For the common people maintenance of the dilapidated roads, foot trails, source of drinking water, control of price hike/inflation, service delivery in government offices in time, good services in public health institutes, good teaching learning environment in public schools matter much more than laying foundation stone of a multi-billion project that will be built a decade henceforth. This is a common sense, no doubt. But, to act according to this common sense requires an uncommon commitment. And any reform can start only from putting common sense into action. Given the prevalence of irregularities, any corrective measures can get a good public applause.
Reform is a big thing, even corrective measures would make a hugely positive impression of the government. For instance, what would have happened if the government had taken measures to prevent private schools from increasing fees this year before the student unions protested it and announced education strike? Of course, the government would be thanked for this. But, now it is the student unions that have taken the credit. Even then, there is still a good chance for the government/ education authorities- ensure that the private schools implement the agreement not to hike fee. This will not be a reform, but this will give a great relief to many people.