The binds that tie

  • Intergovernmental collaboration a must if we want to make federalism work

Apr 24, 2019-

The first meeting of the Inter-State Council had taken place in December 2018. Therein, Prime Minister KP Oli had mentioned how the country should move ahead through cooperation between the federal, province and local level on government. But the sight during the meeting was something different. The chief ministers had many complaints regarding the centre’s apathy towards handing over authority and resources to the provinces.

The 2015 constitution established federalism in the country, but there is a long way to go when it comes to the state actually institutionalising it and jettisoning its old ways of accumulating power at the Centre. To this end, the government has proposed creating a three-tier coordination committee. This is a welcome move, since intergovernmental collaboration a must if we want to make federalism work.

Article 235 (1) of the constitution mandates the centre to draft laws that help in better coordination between the three tiers of the government—the local, provincial, federal. The proposed committee is to congregate leaders of local, provincial, and federal level at least twice a year and deliberate on crafting laws, making policies and adopting standard measures related to education, health and employment.

Two years have passed since the local level elections marked our transition from a unitary system to a federal system. But ever since then, the centre and the provinces have been on a collision course with each other over a number of issues including the mobilisation of personnel and resources, and jurisdiction.

Decentralisation and the strengthening of subnational governments and administrative units are indispensable elements for the successful and efficient implementation of a federal system of government. Given that, regular communication between the leaders of the three tiers will only help smoothen our transition into a federal republic. Nepal as a country comprises of heterogeneous communities. Decentralised governance is best suited to dealing with this diversity, improving the delivery of services, and ensuring participation and accountability.

Quite naturally, unlike the expectation of the larger Nepali citizenry, Nepal’s leap towards a federal system has not been smooth. For example, when the Province 2 Assembly endorsed its Provincial Police Act on October 13, 2018 without waiting for the Federal Police Act, the reaction from those in Kathmandu’s corridors of power was strong and swift. Similarly, Provincial governments also do not seem to be happy with the Civil Servants Adjustment Ordinance which they claim will discourage civil servants to go to the provinces and local units.

But if we are to be optimistic about things, these must be viewed as growing pains. Yet, having said that, the centre has no other option than to devolve power and grant autonomy to subnational governments along with engaging with them on a regular basis. The proposal to form a three tier coordination committee could help facilitate this process. But the government must be committed to implementing it.

Published: 24-04-2019 10:02

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