Get your priorities rightInstead of listing his achievements, the prime minister should set his administration’s priorities right.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has for the past one week been pretty busy presenting a long list of the “achievements” made by his government in the eight months since he assumed office for the third time. On Tuesday, while answering lawmakers’ questions in the House of Representatives, he listed the initiatives to investigate major scandals such as the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the Lalita Niwas land grab scam and the gold smuggling cases as his administration’s success stories. Dahal claimed that he was working on multiple fronts to make the people feel some differences under his leadership. He added that he initiated investigations into the major scams to ensure good governance, and worked hard to ease service delivery, for instance, by easing the process to renew or acquire a passport. Likewise, on the international front, the prime minister tried to project the agreements reached with India during his Delhi visit three months ago as historic ones.
The prime minister has spoken about his achievements not only in Parliament, but also at every mass gathering organised in major towns by the Socialist Front, an alliance of four political parties including the CPN (Maoist Centre). He has been painting a rosy picture of the state of affairs at the gatherings while repeating the same list of “achievements”. He claims that his administration was able to instil hope in the people, even claiming that the rival forces were jealous of the progress made by his government.
But the reality is different from Dahal’s cherry-picked stories. Even as he made grand talk at a mass meeting in Surkhet on Thursday, Nepal Oil Corporation increased the price of cooking gas by Rs235 per cylinder at one go. The government has failed to take any effective measures to tame inflation even as a large section of the population has been struggling to make ends meet. As in the past, government agencies have remained totally ineffective in doing away with market anomalies. One has to wait for more than a year to get a copy of one's driving licence even after renewal or passing the trial.
The exodus of youths both in search of employment and better education is alarming, and the queue at Tribhuvan International Airport is consistently increasing. Each year, hundreds of thousands of youths leave the country for employment and further studies. At least 122,514 students applied for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) at the Education Ministry in the fiscal year 2022-23 alone. Of them, 110,217 got approval. Likewise, from mid-July 2022 to mid-July 2023, at least 771,327 Nepalis (including 72,134 women) got labour approval from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security for foreign employment. These are official data while a large number of Nepalis go for foreign employment through illegal or unofficial channels. This trend is unlikely to reverse any time soon as there is no sign of improvement in Nepal's business and education sectors. Ever since Nepal’s market was hit hard by the Covid pandemic in 2019, sales have failed to make a comeback. Raksha Bandhan is considered to be the beginning of the festive season when Nepalis go on a shopping spree. But there is no sign of any sales revival.
Are these indicators, which have made the general people’s life really hard, something to boast of? So, instead of propagating the government's “achievements”, the prime minister should focus on setting his administration’s priorities right. First thing first, since the festive season has already begun, the concerned authorities should now make a plan to strictly monitor the market and transport.