Sources Of State Effectiveness
Dev Raj Dahal
Nepali dream of democracy, stability and progress never dies. In every five years of elections, the dream is recharged exciting the electorates to vote in growing number to select the leaders as the main instrument of fulfilling their hope. Democracy has provided each Nepali community a chance to seek inclusion, proportional representation, access, rights and recognition to its identity which is shifting the state-mediated society to society-mediated state. The availability of public good for all is vital for an inclusive society that no longer suffers from misery and fear, and bonds them to territorially defined sovereign state as its members. Democratic theory of division, checks, control and devolution of power at local level is based on the belief of murky human nature and power addiction as an end in itself leading to tyranny.
This theory, public deliberation, periodic elections, public opinion, civil society and watchdog agencies are socialising Nepalis on larger public good vital to check selfish human genes and move the state administration from ancien regime of patronage, privilege and subsidy to powerful to participation, equity, transparency and accountability of authorities to the public. The state effectiveness results from its autonomous value, ability to stop alternative source of violence, gift to ruthlessly protect self and operate under citizens’ will.
The legitimacy of Nepali state increases with its stellar authority in society, ability to realise its vital needs, efficacy in retaining constitutional order and opportunity for social actors to sustain their initiatives. Nepali leaders must learn to adapt to post-Westphalian globalisation, connectivity and cooperation and resolve the paradox between its small size relative to neighbours and big society spread out the world over but maintaining spiritual and cultural memory of history and Nepali identity that links the past with the future. Their political will, growth of national capabilities to finance self-sustaining state and ability of governance to balance supply and demand increase its effectiveness and outreach by which it can exert social control and mitigate conflict. The structural change of Nepali state along post-conventional path alone cannot make it effective if all its vital bits are not immune from partisan influence. Impartial operation of the state-bearing institutions within their mandate entails their integrity and discipline, performance and an ability to maintain order, justice and social peace. Nepalis’ struggle to realise the historical ideal of freedom and vision of justice entails a civic culture.
It connects them to each other, fortifies state capacity and prevents the capture of government and the market by interest groups. Nepal’s membership in the multiple international regimes binds it to cosmopolitan ideals and mutual duties but also confers choices to act in a dynamics of world politics in the image of its own power of pivotal place in the hot-spot of neighbours’ security sensitivity and their demand for Nepal’s cooperation. The Nepali constitution has expanded the scope and size of welfare state because citizens want more from it, pay taxes and offer services, increase their dependence and build their stake and loyalty to it. Its robustness is within the nation’s reach if huge expenditures that go on to bloated political classes do not cut the quality of life of average Nepalis. Poverty, inequality and joblessness weaken the social contract based on mutual obligations of citizens and the state. Self-promotion has been enhanced by 31 Constitutional rights which surpass 4 duties. Protecting the Nepali state from the crisis of overload of obligations, underperformance and negative effects of globalisation is crucial to secure its constitution, democracy, sovereignty and opportunities for citizens.
Right use of executive authority of the state, its autonomy and robust local self-governance enables Nepali polity to stand a fair chance of offering citizens a decent standard of life and tap the nation’s potentials for progress. The fairness, accessibility, integrity and result-oriented judiciary elicits faith of citizens in rule and reason based justice. The president’s office as an organic part of Nepali state has to set up a moral tone of the unity of the nation and remind the legislative, executive and judicial leadership visible commitment to their institutional duties. Common good can hold Nepalis together and avert amoral collusion of elites for partisan benefits and collision of interest that cuts democratic civility. Transitional politics of Nepal offers aspiring political forces a chance to regularly manoeuvre against the rule despite its costs for releasing the energy of private enterprises for production, investment and trade, lift economic basis of welfare state and rectify the ugly effects of earlier neoliberal offensives on economy, social cohesion and political stability. It sought a thin state and fat private sectors yielding private returns. Since big political parties are monopolising both leadership and power it is vital to democratise and devolve their functions at the local level to build the trust of citizens in the art of governance, strengthen popular sovereignty as the basis of Nepali state’s power and peaceful conduct of leaders. It can restrain the appetite of dissenters using “negative rights” of citizens to inflame popular cynicism against the regime.
The ruling Communist Party of Nepal’s past tune of state’s withering away has shifted to security and order. Leaders peddle democratic centralism for discipline and party consolidation. During opposition it may be vital to capture the public imagination by criticising the regime, speaking for the masses, defending public good and national sovereignty from outside meddling. But the grievances stoked during opposition cannot be satisfying for Nepalis while in the government. They want tangible outcome to improve their lives and the state of the state. The conversion of Nepal’s ideological parties into mass membership-based ones requires responsiveness of leadership to diverse electorate, not just the supporters or conformist to ideology, leadership and organisation. The public intellectuals argues that the domination of Nepali legislature by interest groups will continue to veer its greed to more facilities and extra money for constituency development than formulate useful policies benefitting citizens and their syncretic culture, non-profits, social services and think tanks that harness deepest needs to belong to the state. The political donation of business continues to mute legislators on indecent financial deals and erode ethics. Impunity viciously feeds corruption and crime and dents the rule of law, the heart of Nepali state’s effectiveness. Corruption privatises the public money, generates income inequality, poverty and social polarisation and consumes huge funds critical for the nation’s progress.
The squeak of public protests against corruption in Nepal hits the daily media headlines. The delay of transitional justice has put the nation on global human rights radar. Nepali welfare state entails virtues of legitimate monopoly on power and commanding heights in matters of securing public goods through a multitude of public, cooperative, private and voluntary sources, making laws and policies attuned to national self-determination and reason-based regulation of vices. Sustainable progress in Nepal depends on improving state capacity to constitutionalise all societal actors, transforming tribal instinct into civic nationalism, mobilising the connectors of society and renewing nature’s resilience. The coordinating role of state helps share the burden and benefit with all, not overloading it with too many duties beyond its capacity to implement. Building Nepali state’s capacity rests on upscaling its hard power of security and rule of law, mobilising ample resources including tax, providing public services to citizens and enhancing its authority’s credibility. An adaptation to new condition of capital, technology and market access can vitalise synergy for progress. Digital economy holds great promise for skilled workers but also disruptive to unskilled ones where Nepal has surplus. Response to the changing nature of job market necessitates constant learning and adaptive skills. Nepali constitution promises redistributive justice as a compensation for their votes, adapt to the labour market and respect the social contract.
The SDGs are aimed at lifting the living standards but the resources needed for it is not sufficient. Investing in the entrepreneurship of youth can cut their migration and brain drain that symbolise a divide of Nepali politics between the future and the present. The loss of the nation’s future cannot boost a virtuous cycle of progress. Nepal’s media need to focus on what actually matters for the nation, not unleash torrent of positive and negative publicity of leaders in public life aimed at finding loopholes to expose the enmity whatever they find among leaders at inter and intraparty lines. They must have the guts to stand up for common good, speak truth and marshal facts citizens want to know about public affairs. In a weak state like Nepal reeling from the residues of violence, conflict sensitivity of media is vital to enable them to uphold conscience and discern common ground for their resolution. The post-bureaucratic state is network based and choice led, not paternalistic one. The rights-driven Nepali state needs to inject competition into its vital organs animating the spirit of social welfare efficiency, reduce the cost of politics, depoliticise state officials and de-projectise politicians, professionals and civil society caring more to public policies. This helps the penetration of geopolitics, market, civil society and NGOs into the vital state institutions undermining its effectiveness and impersonality in performance. The efficiency of Nepali state rests on its embeddedness in society which can give equal consideration to all citizens. (Former Reader at the Department of
Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues)
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