A whole new level

  • Govts at three tiers should not be competitive but cooperative if federal project is to evolve

Feb 26, 2018-

Nepal’s new federal structure is gradually being operationalised. Provincial assemblies have elected chief ministers, and provincial governments will soon be formed. Province Six has been renamed ‘Karnali’ by the state legislature, and other provinces will soon come up with their names.

Simultaneously, local governments have been cautiously exploring the powers that have been given to them. For example, they have begun taking charge of educational policy. A broad range of powers have been delegated down to the ward level. In many parts of the country, a very high level of energy is evident among ward chairpersons and their teams. They are busy seeking to take care of the needs of their constituents. Ward offices across the country have been bustling with activity, with people seeking to register events, seek referrals or submit complaints. Everywhere people seem particularly concerned about the development of infrastructure and hope it will take a whole new dimension once the federal and provincial governments get off the road.

Yet, there is much that remains to be resolved. There is overlapping in the list of powers granted to the three tiers of government. Constitutionally, local governments have been given extensive power. In contrast, the drafters of the constitution seem to have intended to make the provincial governments weak. In many parts of the country, local officials are confused about the role of provincial governments. It is expected that there will be a period of confusion, where the precise roles of the various tiers of government will have to be fleshed out. The governments and new national polity will take time to evolve.

But there is a possibility that conflicts will arise between various tiers of government. The federal government will be reluctant to cede powers. And many of these disputes could even go to the courts over the next couple of years. Nonetheless, officials at all levels should recognise that they have more to gain through cooperation rather than competition. Each of the three tiers of government have competitive advantages. Each level is best placed to undertake particular activities.

For example, there is no need for the provincial government to compete with the local governments. In an ideal scenario, local governments will be tasked with a wide range of power to implement development activity and service delivery. The provincial government should not seek to take over such responsibilities. Rather, they should be focused on developing a broad policy framework and passing laws that will give strategic direction to activity in the province as a whole. Simultaneously, they should negotiate with the central government on behalf of local governments for various kinds of resources. A major transformation in the Nepali state is currently under way. If officials at the various levels of government are able to cooperate with each other, much can be accomplished within a relatively short period of time. The idea of federalism at the governance level will take time to evolve.

Published: 26-02-2018 08:30

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