A tale of liesMisuse of numbers as weapons to paint an incorrect picture is a real tragedy
Prime Minister KP Oli displayed his characteristic defensiveness while addressing Parliament on Sunday, marking a questionable start to the commencement of its winter session. His speech boasted about greater capital spending by his government, satisfactory progress in national pride projects, and a reduced rate of inflation. But the much-awaited speech on issues of ‘public importance’ turned out to be a weak progress report that defended his administration’s activities. The prime minister even stopped short of talking about the major controversies that his government is currently embroiled in—from allegations of corruption in the procurement of two Airbus planes to delays in the Sikta Irrigation and Budhi Gandaki Hydropower projects. The prime minister’s silence proved to be more vocal.
But more importantly, giving inflated figures to prove that the achievements of this government have been greater than those of the previous government has misled the public. The gross misrepresentation of figures and lies to mask incompetence has led public expectations to run aground. This misuse of numbers as weapons to paint an incorrect picture is a real tragedy.
The prime minister claimed that capital expenditure stood at around 26 percent. But figures from the Financial Comptroller General Office contradict this claim. According to this office, capital expenditure stood at around 15 percent as of Sunday. While the government boasted that inflation had been reduced to less than 4 percent, according to statistics obtained from the central bank, the inflation rate was 4.2 percent. The prime minister also gleefully mentioned how his government had reduced the trade deficit by 1.5 percent; but in reality, it has increased by a whopping 38 percent. The prime minister was quick to mention that progress in national pride projects has been ‘satisfactory’, but the lack of progress on Tamakoshi Hydropower or Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project say otherwise.
The Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is almost over. Less than 5 percent of the work remains to be done; but the government, despite the demonstrated commitment in April to complete it, has not done so even until now. The second component of the Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, has sunk the project into limbo as the design is yet to be approved. These evidences point to the fact that this government that prides itself on having secured a two-thirds majority in Parliament is no different than previous administrations which governed for nine months on average.
Instead of addressing these outstanding (and perpetually extended) deadlines, the government resorted to its old blame-game tendencies. The situation was worsened by the fact that after around one hour into his address, opposition lawmakers had to draw the Speaker’s attention, seeking time to ask questions. What’s more, even as the PM’s speech drew backlash, KP Oli in an event organised by the Nepal Chamber of Commerce on Monday was seen hell-bent on defending the figures he presented despite statistics from various ministers not corroborating his claims. The government’s actions during the session and the event afterwards simply reinforced the narrative that the ruling government is intolerant of dissent, self-aggrandising, and lacks critical reflection.