Cabinet reshuffle on cards ahead of the Investment Summit

  • Two top ruling party leaders taking updates and reports on ministers’ performance, party insiders say
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Feb 21, 2019-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is considering reshuffling his Cabinet, removing some ministers and changing the portfolios of others at a time when the performance of the government has been facing criticism from several quarters, including some sections of the ruling party.

Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, have been under growing pressure to remove non-performing ministers for months.

According to senior leaders inside the party, there are also discussions to change portfolios of some ministers in the upcoming reshuffle that might take place either in one go or in phases.

At least three ruling party leaders told the Post that the Cabinet reshuffle could take place ahead of the Nepal Investment Summit at the end of March because it would send a positive message to the donors, investors and development partners.

The Oli administration has vowed to make the investment summit a big success, but the plan has failed to garner desired positive responses. Key development partners have expressed concerns over the country’s investment climate, red tapes, and lack of policy reforms. And there are corruption issues that keep potential investors at bay.

To address all these issues, Oli has been under tremendous pressure to build a solid Cabinet with effective and efficient ministries.

A decision regarding Cabinet rejig is likely after a party Secretariat meeting that has been called for Friday. Top leaders are set to start deliberations on the changes, party insiders said.

“First, within a couple of days, the party Secretariat meeting will discuss the remaining tasks of the party unification. Then the next step will be Cabinet reshuffle,” said Kundan Aryal, press advisor to Oli.

The prime minister had discussed with Dahal possible faces to be inducted into the Cabinet on Tuesday before leaving for Sudurpaschim Province, according to a senior leader close to Dahal who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Insiders say both leaders are of the view that party unity had also hit a snag because of the impending Cabinet reshuffle. Second, there is also a tacit understanding between Dahal and another senior party leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, to end the provision of dual responsibility—that one leader should bear only one responsibility either in the party or in the government.

Madhav Nepal has his own faction in the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

All 11 Standing Committee members close to Oli have dual responsibilities but leaders close to Dahal and Nepal have been given only one responsibility in the party.

“To address these two issues related to party unification and ending dual responsibility, Oli is under pressure to remove non-performing ministers and induct new faces,” said an aide to Oli. “Both Oli and Dahal are regularly taking updates and reports from party members as well as outsiders about the ministers’ performance.”

Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, however, said he was not aware of the Cabinet reshuffle and that he was not informed about it—neither by Oli nor by Dahal. There is immense pressure from a section of the Nepal Communist Party, particularly from Maoists leaders, to remove Finance Minister Yubraj Khatiwada, party insiders say.

But chances of Oli removing Khatiwada are slim, as he had personally handpicked the latter to lead the ministry.

A section of the ruling party leaders has forwarded the name of Surendra Pandey to replace Khatiwada. Pandey had served as the finance minister in the Madhav Nepal-led government between 2009 to 2011.

Other underperforming ministers who could be under scanner are Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transportation Raghubir Mahaseth; Agriculture Minister Chakrapani Khanal; Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare Tham Maya Thaklai; Minister for Youth and Sports Jagat Bishwokarma; Minister for Labour and Social Security Minister Gokarna Bista; Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar and Minister for Industry and Supplies Matrika Yadav.

Performance of others like Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari, who ran into controversy over the two wide-body aircraft purchase deal, is also under review and consideration.

Similarly, Oli is said to be unhappy with the performance of Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Lalbabu Pandit and reviewing his job performance as well.

According to the sources, some ministers like Bista and Gokul Baskota, minister for communications and information technology, are likely to get different portfolios.

Published: 21-02-2019 07:46

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