States Defy Central Control
Chief Minister of State 2 Lal Babu Raut has contended that the central government has created impediments in implementation of the federalism in the country. Speaking at deliberation on civil service bill held in the provincial assembly, the other day, he made it clear that once the bill is ratified and enacted into law, the provincial government will exercise an unfettered authority to recruit civil servants and fulfil its human resource requirement. In that context, he has threatened that the central government would have to take back the personnel deputed from Singh Durbar. He also elaborated on the concept of self-rule and self-administration in which local people not only have right to participate in ruling through election but also in the administration of the State.
The strains in the relations between centre and State has not been new as it has simmered right after the central government started to produce law without taking the scope, needs and interests of the provincial government into account. The meeting of the interstate council held some months ago in which Prime minister and chief ministers interacted frankly and candidly has not been able to resolve the impending issues of conflict between central and State government.
Similar to the voice articulated by the Chief Minister of the State 2, Chief Minister of Gandaki Pradesh had argued some times in the past that the proposed Uttarganaga hydropower project should be constructed in Baglung under management and purview of the provincial government. He has also contended that a sizeable percentage of the total power generated in the country is derived from the rivers in the State 4 whereas the share of the royalty is not commensurate to it. Similarly, the chief minister of the State No.3 Dormani Poudyal had also interest on behalf of the provincial government to take over central level projects which have failed to take off due to one or the other reasons. These assertions on the part of provincial chief ministers indicate about the potential issues that may give rise to intergovernmental conflicts especially related with distribution of resources and development dividends. Needless to say, Constitution of Nepal enacted in 2015 AD provides for three tiered structures of the government –federal, State and local.
An important feature of the constitution is that it has recognised explicitly the provincial and local government as the constituent units of the state. Article 56 of the constitution mentions that the federal, provincial and local government shall exercise state authority as per the respective mandates and competencies enshrined in schedules 5 to 9 of the Constitution. Accordingly, a separate list of functions and competencies for the three levels of the government has been provided. The lists are intended to ensure autonomy and self-rule in the roles and functions embodied in the respective schedules while inclusion of the local level government representatives in the electoral college for upper house of the federal parliament and provision of the concurrent list given in schedule 9 of the constitution are the indicative examples of the principles of the shared rule. The self-rule and shared rule are key principles of the federal organisation of the state.
The federal constitution of Nepal schematises three kinds of functional jurisdictions for three levels of the government. They are the exclusive-(enumerated), concurrent and residuary jurisdictions. The frontline service delivery function has been entrusted to local level government while the policy formulation and standard setting and redistributive functions have been entrusted to the federal level government. The cooperative, not competitive type federalism, has been envisaged in terms of distribution of functional jurisdiction where three levels of the government are involved in discharging the same function with different roles and capacity. It is a form of collaborative federalism where all levels of the governments have to cooperate and collaborate to execute the function based on their competencies and mandates.
It will also be relevant to note some discrepancies seen in the constitutional provision especially with regard to allocation of functions. Some overlaps and contradictions exist in the allocation of functions and authority among the three levels of the governments. For example, education, health and agriculture are provided in the concurrent list while these also fall within the exclusive functional jurisdictions of the local level government.
Moreover, collecting tourism fee has been given both to local, State and federal government. This has given avenues for the pre-emptive legislation of federal government. In this state of confusion and contradiction, federal government can resort to pre-emptive legislation to assert its authority over concurrent functions undermining the spirit of the self-rule of federalism. In regard to several functions, there exists no clear cut inter-tier delineation of the authority. As a result it can give room for disputes. Inter-governmental disputes may grow and proliferate over functional jurisdiction among the different tiers of the government which can place impediments in the working of the governments.
The assertion of the chief ministers of the States mentioned above indicate the forebodings of the intergovernmental conflicts especially related with overlaps of functional jurisdictions and resource distribution. There is therefore a need to have regular dialogues and consultations among the three levels of the government to avert the possibility of conflicts and intractable polemics. There should be mechanisms for dialogues and negotiations to resolve issues in a constructive manner so that no judicial recourse to resolve disputes is sought.
(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues)