Three cheers to OliPM Oli’s biggest challenge is not management of external ties but the three tiers of govt
The left alliance won an overwhelming majority in elections late last year on the basis of a number of specific promises. There was first the promise of stability. The UML and CPN-Maoist Centre said that they would ensure coherence in governance if they were given a five-year term. Then there was the promise of development.
Prime Minister Oli and CPN-MC Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal now plan to launch massive infrastructure projects through investment and aid from a variety of countries. And third, there was a promise to reset Nepal’s external relations. Oli seems intent to reduce Nepal’s reliance on India by, among others, deepening ties with China.
All these promises resonated among the population, which was perhaps best evidenced by the Oli-led left alliance’s handsome poll showing. And it now appears clear that the new government, led by Oli, is intent on fulfilling these promises.
However, there are signs that the success of Oli’s tenure will be determined not primarily by management of internal politics but the proper implementation of the federal structure and its operationalisation. The new federal structure is only just coming into operation. There are numerous challenges that are evident in its implementation and the government is only just waking up to the harsh reality.
A case in point has to do with the restructuring of the civil service. Civil servants were instructed to take up positions in various provinces over a month ago. However, very few of them have done so. It appears that there is great resistance within the civil service to get transferred from the relative comfort of the capital. This has taken on the dimensions of a crisis, and provincial governments have not been able to take up their functions as a result. The central government has recognised the gravity of the situation. The prime minister is expected to take some major decisions on the issue soon.
It is clear that this is only the first crisis that the government will face in bringing the new federal structure into operation. There will be numerous other challenges in the days ahead, ranging from formulating necessary laws to determining the specific jurisdictions of each of the three tiers of government. The challenge for Oli and his government will be to implement all the steps necessary in an orderly manner that is satisfactory to all parties involved.
On occasions, the government will have to take a firm stance, compelling recalcitrant elements to obey decisions. At other times, a more flexible approach will be required, such as in negotiations with provincial governments over jurisdiction. In the end, the success of the current government will largely be determined by whether Oli manages to avoid chaos in implementation and whether the government is able to oversee the establishment of a strong federal system where power is significantly devolved to local and provincial units.