Shooting the messengerAction against Nepal Rastra Bank governor is more whimsical than a studied decision.
The suspension of Maha Prasad Adhikari, governor of the Nepal Rastra Bank, at a time when the authorities need to be serious about regrouping their strengths in tackling the country’s economic woes, is wholly unjustified. While Section 22 and sub-section 5 of the Nepal Rastra Bank Act-2002 have detailed the conditions that allow for the governor’s removal, the charges levelled on him, such as leaking sensitive information and not fulfilling his responsibilities, seem preposterous.
Thus, the move to suspend the governor without clear justification has been stated as political, possibly at the behest of Prime Minister Deuba’s coalition partner, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). That tensions were brewing between Finance Minister Janardan Sharma, a Maoist leader, and Adhikari is no secret. Sharma’s role as finance minister had already come into question for several reasons, including his failure to take initiatives to mitigate the crisis the economy has been facing. Hence, the sudden move against the government perhaps is more than meets the eye.
The writing was on the wall that Nepal's economy was facing headwinds. As finance minister, it was incumbent upon Sharma to take immediate steps and get the governor into confidence. Prime Minister Deuba needed to feel the urgency. But instead, when Sharma came under the scanner, Deuba capitulated to his Maoist partner to give the nod for the governor’s suspension in a move that could further invite crisis. Deuba may have come under pressure to save the alliance ahead of elections, but action against the central bank chief cannot be justified.
Deuba, who is serving as the prime minister for the fifth time, must have considered that a central bank’s autonomy is paramount to stablilse the economy. Adhikari’s suspension at the behest of the Maoist Centre makes a strong case of the Finance Ministry’s interference in the Nepal Rastra Bank, a practice that only weakens the country’s top financial institution. Almost all public institutions of the country have already become a playground for political parties, and the latest action against the central bank governor has raised more fears.
Politicians need to refrain from attacking independent institutions that act as a check on their wanton behaviour, especially when the government lacks a good reason to act on. We have recently witnessed what political interference in the Supreme Court has resulted in. And this latest attack on the central bank sets not only a bad precedent but is also an irresponsible move on the state’s part; it comes at a precarious moment the country is facing a plethora of financial problems. It is time they rise above their vested political interest and think about the nation’s issues for a change.