Print Edition - 2016-05-29  |  Free the Words

Something is rotten

  • Political instability, agriculture in reverse gear and corruption are Nepal’s hallmarks
- NIRANJAN MANI DIXIT, Kathmandu
Ten prime ministers have attained the highest goalof securing lifelong luxurious retirement facilities from the poverty-stricken state costing the Nepali taxpayer more than Rs3 billion annually

May 29, 2016-There have been seven coalition governments since 2008 after Nepal became a republic. Envious and intolerant party leaders have perpetuated political instability and underdevelopment, making the country and people long-suffering victims. In the 25 years since 1990 when multiparty democracy was reinstated in Nepal, there have been a procession of 22 prime ministers. The Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) have headed the government 10, four and two times respectively. Among the record holders, Girija Prasad Koirala has served five terms as prime minister and Sher Bahadur Deuba three terms. Ram Sharan Mahat has been the finance minister seven times. 

Lucrative job 

As many as 10 prime ministers have attained the highest goal of securing lifelong luxurious retirement facilities from the poverty-stricken state costing the Nepali taxpayer more than Rs3 billion annually. Five Speakers of Parliament and 15 judges also belong to this exclusive club. The Nepali people are not getting value for money comparing the output with the salaries and benefits being paid to lawmakers, bureaucrats, planners and technocrats. Currently, seven percent of the total national revenue is consumed by the 221,984 pensioners.

The political instability and anomalies are also a product of the burgeoning number of political parties that have created a Kathmandu-centric political industry. The industry has also become a huge employment centre. Its influence on the bureaucracy and trade and commerce has been pervasive, aggravating political and economic implications and anomalies which ultimately cost the country and people. In contrast, 40 percent of the total arable land in Nepal has lain fallow for the last 10 years while billions are spent on importing food grain, vegetables, fruits and animal protein annually. Only a decade ago, Nepal was a net exporter of food grain! The economy relies on manpower export to stay afloat. An estimated 1,500 economically active youths are leaving the country daily for the Gulf and other overseas destinations for employment. Society is becoming increasingly consumptive. Relocation is also rampant. The population of the Kathmandu Valley has exploded threefold to approximately four million in 10 years. 

Paradoxically, cash-poor Nepal has not been able to spend the grants given by friendly countries. The Rs14.5 billion offered by Chinese President Xi Jinping during the then president Ram Baran Yadav’s visit to China in March 2015 to develop highways, the $4.6 billion pledged by the international community in June 2015 for earthquake reconstruction, and the $1 billion grant pledged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for power projects in August 2014 remain unspent. The Melamchi Drinking Water Supply Project, which is of vital importance to Kathmandu, was started in 2001 but is still incomplete. There are hundreds of such incomplete infrastructure projects including the Kathmandu-Nijgadh 75-km-long Fast Track Road. The cost and time overruns on these projects have made Nepal even poorer.

Capital expenditure in the first nine months of the current fiscal year has been recorded at only 20 percent, and an estimated 70 percent of it is gobbled up by the Kathmandu Valley at the cost of needy districts thus widening disparities. Obviously, time has been wasted in political and social engineering and power games. The 13 periodic national plans implemented so far have been able to secure only dismal progress which can be counted on the fingers. Reflecting on the past national budget plans, the coalition governments have only delivered overambitious targets for their politicking and prolonging their stay in power. They seem to be Jack-of-all-trades, but master of none in terms of lack of skills and commitment to time- and cost-bound implementation. Whatever little development has taken place has been a spontaneous process or the result of the initiatives of the private sector. 

Rule of law 

Institutionalising the rule of law and good governance and taking stern measures against irregularities, pending court cases, impunity, corruption and black marketeering and cartelling leading to acute shortages and hyper inflation have not happened. Nepal has been placed in the 130th position in the graft perceptions index of Transparency International released last January, a sign of the widespread bribery and lack of punishment for corruption. A total of 22,860 public office bearers including politicians did not submit their property details in fiscal 2014-15 in violation of Prevention of Corruption Act 2002. Moreover, the country is still without elected local governments. 

The country has become a federal democratic republic, and a new constitution has been promulgated. The manifestoes of all the political parties are almost identical. The common goal is to develop Nepal and provide a better quality of life to the Nepali people. Therefore, likeminded political parties can be merged to have around three parties in total. Nepali voters should have allowed one party to secure a majority in the election so that it could serve a full term and prevent political instability. Political leaders should have a positive attitude and competence, and they should be made accountable. 

Dixit is a grants business and development professional

Published: 29-05-2016 09:01

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