Dashed hopesOwing to the Oli administration’s inability to lead by action, its credibility is waning
When KP Sharma Oli, then chairman of the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), was sworn in as prime minister for the second time in February last year, his voters had some general expectations pertaining to their everyday lives including aspirations for national prosperity. Perhaps their hopes were pretty ordinary: Growing inflation would be checked, peace and security in the country would improve, public service delivery would be smooth and the roads would be well managed. As the popular slogan of the left alliance was ‘stability for prosperity’, the ordinary public overwhelmingly gave a verdict in their favour with a firm belief that the situation in the country would improve. Perhaps the charismatic leadership of the prime minister might have paid rich dividends in the election. People still talked of his nationalist stance during the unofficial Indian blockade.
The government has made some noteworthy achievements. The announcement of a Social Security Scheme has great implications for the welfare of the employees working in the private and public sectors. In addition, the Prime Minister Employment Programme has been put into action, and a growing attraction among youths for taking loans has been observed in the past few months.
Having said that, a growing frustration among the public regarding service delivery and the governance system can be observed. Owing to the government’s inability to lead by action, its credibility is waning. Several distressing situations emerged in the country in the past one year, and public aspirations have taken a backseat. Whether we refer to the recent wide body jet scam or the pertinent case of Nirmala Pant, the government has severely faltered in promoting good governance in the country. Moreover, the apathy of the government in punishing the perpetrators of the widely reported 33 kg gold smuggling case has raised a public fury.
In other words, the government has failed to deliver on its repeated pledges to be loyal to the general public. While the rhetorical speeches of government ministers are still full of ambitious plans and policies, the ground reality suggest something different. A strong will to curb corruption has gone missing though the prime minister has time and again expressed his firm commitment to uproot the wrongdoing from the country. Even Transparency International’s latest report showed that the condition of corruption in Nepal is further worsening which should definitely be a matter of grave concern.
A series of statements by the prime minister since his second inauguration has created a huge controversy. Ranging from the confrontational nature of his statement directed towards the Nepali intelligentsia to the manner of venting ire against the opposition, all of them have contributed to the declining image of the government. Furthermore, the prime minister has come under a great deal of criticism for his stubborn posture against medical education activist Dr Govinda KC.
Despite the fact that the current government commands a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the economic indicators have been dismal in the past few years. The state of capital expenditure has remained pathetic, and the country’s balance of payments also paints a gloomy picture. Worse, foreign direct investment has also dropped considerably in the first six months of this fiscal year compared to the previous year. While the prime minister recently assured the international community of an improving investment climate in the country, the latest data suggests something different. Nepal was ranked 110th in the World Bank Doing Business Index of 2018—down five places from 2017—further exposing the vulnerabilities of our business environment.
One of the defining characteristics of the government has been undue interest in giving speeches with ambitious pledges often lacking accountability. For instance, the home minister told Parliament that it might still take a long time to unveil the result of the ongoing investigation into Nirmala Pant’s case. But a few weeks before that, the defence minister had publicly stated that the culprit had already been identified and would be revealed soon. This sort of contradictory statements from ministers has contributed to the declining image of the government.
With the government constitutionally in a position to complete its full five-year term, there is still an opportunity to reflect on the shortcomings of the past year and move ahead to deliver on promises made to the public. In this regard, the first and foremost thing would be demonstrating responsible actions and speeches. The government’s interest in collaborating effectively with other political forces on matters of national significance should become profound in the coming years. Not only this, taking the opposition into confidence through negotiation and dialogue will also be crucial. More importantly, mending internal party politics will be equally crucial for ensuring the stability of the government. While the public is no longer in a position to witness frequent changes in government, the Oli administration will have to seriously contemplate over catering to the public expectations which the left alliance had raised themselves.
Pokharel is a social cience faculty at the Whitehouse Graduate School of Management.