Where from here?The government needs to talk less and do more work.
Nepal underwent numerous crises in the last seven decades: an end to the autocratic rana regime; decade long armed conflict from 1996 to 2006, which formally ended after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. Years later, there was a devastating earthquake in 2015 which was followed by unofficial economic blockade, among others. From 2008 to 2018, Nepal almost changed eight prime ministers. But the instability presumably came to an end when the government successfully concluded after the much needed elections of local, federal and provincial regions in 2017 and 2018. The elections paved path for Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to form a government with two-third majority.
The conclusion of local election after two decades and the formation of the government with KP Oli as the prime minister resonated for many as a ‘stable government’. Nepali inside and outside the country consider this a ‘success’ of the election and see it as Nepal’s trajectory towards development. As a corollary, the citizenry has huge expectations from the government when it comes to development of infrastructure, growth of economic status, actions against corrupt practices promotion of rule of law, protection of fundamental rights and human rights. But there are no silver bullets to attaining them. It will take time for good governance practices to rule the roost. Yet, despite giving the government this benefit of doubt, their recent actions have not left much to be optimistic about.
First, in regard to the infrastructural development, the government has failed to complete the much hyped Melamchi Water Supply Project for Kathmandu denizens. The project was expected to be completed by mid-October 2019. The work now is in limbo after an Italian builder left the project citing number of reasons. Although, it has been already been around three months since the Italian contractor abandoned the project site, the Secretary of Ministry of Water Supply has not been able to commence board meeting to provide headway.
Likewise, another mega project which will allow Nepal to get rid of long power cuts, is surrounded by various complexities that are not provided with the required attention from the government. Despite a whopping estimation of US$ 2.5 billion as the total estimation for the project, it does not envision resettlement and rehabilitation cost for the 45,000 people of 27 and 14 VDCs of Gorkha and Dhading district respectively. Various similar projects such as construction of airport, highways, building of irrigation channels are progressing in snail-inch pace.
Second, Nepal’s trade deficit is ballooning progressively. The ratio of import and export is around 16.6:1. Since Nepal has to totally import fuel, mainly from India, this trade deficiency is likely to endure. Nepal cannot forgo import of certain items such as fossil fuel, vehicles and spare parts. True, the export of ginger, tea and pashmina increased by 6.9 percentages, 11.8 percentages and 5.4 percentages respectively in the last three years. But narrowing down the trade deficit warrants aggressive and large-scale export of those items along with adding a few more in the export basket. Third, the government made—and still continues—no make grand claims of adopting a zero-tolerance policy against corruption, but its words have rang hollow in the absence of robust implementation. The recent news of corruption involving a Commissioner of ‘Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority’ is evident of deeply rooted practice of corruption in the country. It not only made headlines and spread like wildfire in the social media, but also raised questions among the general people about the government’s stance against corruption. In fact, the index published by Transparency International depicts worsen condition as Nepal has fallen two positions from 2017 and now stands at 124, which makes it one of the most corrupt countries in South Asia.
Fourth, despite abolishment of discrimination against dalit by constitution, 41 percentage of dalit still live below the poverty line. Similarly, the report released by Dalit Women Association showcases sexual abuse against the dalit community tops the list in the country. In the last 10 months, in 155 out of 629 cases of rape, the victims were from the dalit community.
Apart from these, Nepal still has not been able to solve the issue of transitional justice and clearly demonstrates lack of commitment required for it. Although the term of transitional justice bodies is extended by a year, the victims and concerned stakeholders are disgruntled since the process still adheres to a top-down approach while both dealing with the cases of conflict and inducting new members to the two commissions established for ensuring transitional justice.
Needless to say there are many other issues where the government is criticised blatantly, such as its lack of preparedness to deal with the natural disasters, its failure to punish the perpetrator of a crime the whole country was concerned about as in the case oh Nirmala Pant. Instead, its attention is diverted to adopting regressive measures like banning of porn and muzzling free speech. It would be prudent if the government focused on the task-at-hand work towards achieving development and maintaining rule of law.
Regmi is an advocate at Associates Hub