No one should doubt our federalism: CM Pokharel

Chief Minister of State 5 Shankar Pokharel, who is also a Nepal Communist Party (NCP) standing committee member, is known as an ideological leader within the party. Chief Minister Pokharel spoke on various issues, including the implementation of federalism and his experiences as the Chief Minister of State 5 during the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday.
Excerpts: shankar

Has implementation of federalism moved smoothly in the country? How is your experience?
Federalism has been partially implemented and it will be fully implemented after the completion of the employee adjustment and resource management tasks. We need to implement it successfully because no alternative is there to federalism.
It has to be implemented and it will be implemented. Fundamental practice of federalism has been coined for the smooth and balanced development in the country. Existing provisions are not able to fill up all the needs and gaps.
In other words, implementation of federalism is essential to fill up the development gaps, which is a must to ensure our journey towards prosperity. Political leaders want rapid development in our country and have coined the concept of strong state by joining hands together.
Federalism in Nepal is introduced to manage the governing system. We have now federal governing mechanism with unitary system. There should not be any confusion regarding the model we have followed, either it is multi-state concept or unitary model.
Those who do not understand our fundamental structure think that we are adopting multi-state concept. But we have formulated our own model federalism with three-tier government which is not assembled in any other nation.

Being a Chief Minister, have you felt lack of inter-governmental coordination and if yes, how it has obstructed developments in the state?
We have accepted new governing system but are still unable to convince about the provisions. This year, we created legal ground. Now we are aware about the structural development. Several things are still there to be cleared.
I accept that there are confusions as well as lack of coordination. We are in a learning phase. So, lack of coordination is expected one. It’s natural in the initial phase. Legal provisions, working areas, liabilities and many others things will be clear with time.
We need to be optimistic and work to eliminate all the misunderstandings.

Where is the uneasiness actually then?
It’s natural that confusion will be created for certain period when a system changes. People who have revolted for the changes will confront their existence.
Everybody is habituated with the unitary model, not with the new changes. We need to convert our habits for the rapid growth. For an instance, neighbouring country China having capital in Beijing with economic capital in Sanghai has developed a lot. They have one china policy.
The UK has attained development by adopting a unitary model. Development is possible even in unitary model, but we were unable to utilise all that opportunity and was compelled to change the whole governing system.
For now, uneasiness lies in our unitary schooling and the traditional mindset. The cycle of federalism has not completed, once it completes, everything will be easier.
Federalism firstly requires political consent among the different layers of governments which we have maintained except for the common rights areas.
Secondly, it demands administrative structure which is on the progress. New structure was not created, but we just got converted into the federal structure from unitary structure. We are lacking 10 to 15 per cent employees for federalism because the employees with traditional mindset are not ready to work with state governments.
In state 5, only 1200 employees have been adjusted, when there is a demand of 4000 employees.
Resource management is another major issue for the implementation of federalism. Without revenue nothing can be done. The federal government has presented temporary means of mechanism for the resource management.
Initial survey reports from the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission for resource management have not been published till the date. Formula to divide royalty has not been developed. Long-term policy with need assessment for the states is needed to fill the investment gap.

What are your plans and programmes to lead the state towards prosperity?
We have planned to develop State 5 at first and with that we want to drag the country towards prosperity. We have a slogan “Prosperous State Happy People” for State 5. No one needs to visit the capital in compulsion. We will develop our trading system, specialist services at the zonal hospitals of the State for treatment, quality education institutions will be developed and the most importantly industrial corridors will be established. Nothing is impossible, once Gautam Buddha airport comes into operation, more things will be done easily. Positive signs will be noticed.

It is said that the States and local bodies are not active in their own earnings and keep on seeking grants and transfers from the federal government, is it so?
No, I don’t agree with this. There is still misunderstanding that the States and the local bodies are not capable to accomplish their roles and responsibilities. You can see the reports in State 5 that proves that the States can perform better than the federal government. We have developed three times more than the federal government had expected from us in drinking water, road and irrigation projects.
Like us other States can also work better which ultimately leads towards prosperity. Fiscal literacy has to enhance. Results of federalism will be visible from the coming fiscal year.
The federal government is purchasing 200 electric vehicles for all seven States. It’s a positive initiation. Not only this, there are several other programmes already implemented they have started producing results. We have been able to collect more revenue than we have targeted in State 5. Liability and allocation should match.

Political transition and party unification process has affected the government’s performance, do you agree?
Yes, it has impacted somehow. We have multiple roles to settle the party unification and the responsibility of nation building simultaneously. Working pattern has changed.
The government has to make the people aware first about federalism and implement federalism. But there is warm environment for co-working.
This year, we have remained busy in policy formulation. Provincial development vision has been prepared. Policy and programmes for a year and budget allocating tasks have completed in a harmonious manner.

Why is State 5 lingering in naming it and finalising its capital city?
Naming the State is not a problem for us, because most of the things in our States are settled in consent. We are in search of virgin land for the capital in State 5. A technical committee, including sociologists and geologists are working on that. We will name the State and finalise its capital city after we receive the survey report

You are a senior leader of the NCP and well aware that the party is facing problem in allocating the responsibility of its leader in school department. What is your say?
We have drafted our vision for long-run, strategies for short-run. Economic activities have been mobilised in every layer. In fact, economy is in the right track. So nothing is there to worry about.
Again I say big change affects everywhere for a short term. Leaders search their roles and spaces at the time which is normal. Hegemony of old legacy affects us. Things will heal in the passing of time.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the federal government? These days, the government brings proposals and withdraws them immediately, why is that happening?
Withdrawing something is not losing something. It’s a mature manner to convince the people and stakeholders. A mature political party should not hesitate to do so.
Yes, the government is working but it’s speed is slow. Disputes will be cleared. Increasing the volume of import is not bad.
It shows economic activities are moving smoothly. See the reports, the number of tourists has increased and the number of youngster serving in international labour market has decreased which means they are consuming more goods. Factories are seen.
It’s not time to worry about the growing data of international trade instead it’s time to focus on productivity. Let’s stop depressing people by saying nothing has happened in the country.

Has the increasing trade deficit no meaning at all?
It has meaning that there is pressure in consumption. Economic activities are flourishing. I have seen Nepali economists are just terrifying the people by showing inappropriate data and analysing them inappropriately.
They remained busy in analysing data since decades but do not study Nepal and its typicality. They just copy international models which is not correct. Situational and psychological analysis according to the soil of the nation is essential.
Data show import of construction materials and machineries has increased which means the speed of development is high.

(Prepared by Ajita Rijal and Ranju Kafle, photographs by Sagar Basnet.) 

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