Effects of the dissolutionTwo dozen bills will lapse or have their enforcement processes halted until the House resumes.
Nepal's Parliament has been in limbo for more than a month since the presidential pronouncement of its dissolution. As enshrined in the constitution, Parliament is an organic institution with a life of its own. The House of Representatives, with directly elected members, characterises the very genesis of Nepali democracy by reflecting public opinion and the will of the citizens. The parliamentary body has a defined lifespan and is dissolved naturally once its term ends. Such a dissolution requires the house to seek a new mandate from the public. But in Nepal, Parliament's life has been cut short prematurely, thus instigating a chain reaction that has adverse effects on matters that directly depend on the functioning of the lower house, and ultimately interferes with the aspirations of national prosperity.
When Parliament is dissolved, all businesses pending before it lapses. If the lower house remains dissolved, around two dozen bills will lapse or have their enforcement processes halted until the house resumes, meaning that the resources, expenses and skillsets spent in the preparation of these proposed laws will also go to waste. The Electricity Bill seeks to reinforce a legal framework to consolidate all federal units to cooperate with each other for the development and operation of power projects, ensure competition among electricity licensees and recognise cross-border power trade. It is well known that Nepal possesses immense potential and aspires to develop its exploitable hydroelectricity and export it to neighbouring countries. Accordingly, the government has aimed to generate around 15 gigawatts of electricity in the coming decade. The attainment of this goal is still subject to a firm legal skeleton which would have been provided by the new piece of legislation that awaits passage in both houses of the federal legislature.
Bills put on hold
The Insurance Bill that would create a long-desired regulatory body in the insurance sector too has fallen victim to the dissolution. A number of other bills such as the Cannabis Cultivation Bill, Securities (Amendment) Bill, Nepal Rastra Bank (Amendment) Bill, Bank and Financial Institution Amendment Bill, Railway Bill, Information Technology Bill, Citizenship Act (Amendment) Bill and Public Procurement (Amendment) Bill which would lay down provisions for a new legal arrangement are now either lapsed or their implementation has been deferred until the parliamentary session resumes or a new Parliament takes over.
The last election that produced the now-dissolved Parliament cost around Rs50 billion, or about Rs5,000 per vote cast, which includes the Election Commission's expenses, security costs and campaign spending by the candidates. Around the same amount of money is projected to be spent if a midterm election is held. In other words, billions of rupees from the taxpayers' pocket was spent only to make the elected Parliament obsolete. To give an idea of how dire these numbers are, the money that will be spent on the avoidable midterm election is enough to give anti-Covid-19 injections to everybody in Nepal twice over.
The premature termination of Parliament will further delay the decision-making process for contentious subjects that require timely intervention. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Nepal Compact mandates parliamentary ratification before proceeding with the $500 million grant. The United States and Nepal signed the agreement in 2017. Nepal had made a commitment to ratify it in Parliament by September 2019, but the whole thing stalled after a debate whether the grant was in the national interest or not took the front seat. While a few provisions in the MCC compact might be mootable, timely closure was necessary nonetheless. Its pros and cons should have been debated at an appropriate platform of Parliament, and not on social media.
Now that the parliamentary session has been suspended, the delay in vital issues such as MCC has helped only an opportunistic few who thrive and craft their way to gain political mileage amidst a crisis like this. It has also hurt Nepal's reputation among potential investors and donors who will now take cognizance of the indecisiveness before considering future investments in the country.
As per the domino theory, one small change in the status quo triggers a series of adverse ramifications. Likewise, one decision to dissolve a well-functioning Parliament is certain to drain completely the potential it carried thus far. The manner in which the episode of Parliament's dissolution has unfolded evokes a constant customary tale in Nepal's political fabric of 'what is and what could've been'. In 2020, Nepal rose to the 94th position in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index. But the propensity in the Nepali polity to put political interest above the interest of the nation is very likely to degrade Nepal's endeavours and parliamentary achievements attained during the last two and a half years, like it often has in the past.
As the house stands dissolved at this moment, leaving parliamentary businesses suspended and the bills lapsed, it has prompted political upheaval, name-calling and unnecessary polarisation. Responsible statesmanship among the political elite would have avoided all these undesirable developments. A stitch in time could've saved nine. Inadvertently or not, this one decision to terminate Parliament has set off an unfortunate chain reaction at the end of which only one victim is certain to suffer, the nation.