Unmet Expectations from Federal Nepal

– This article was originally published by Ayushma Maharjan in the Himalayan Times on the January 13, 2019

After the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal in 2015, the public expectation that the government will develop a modern economic framework, which will promote best practices to tackle some of the ubiquitous challenges that have hampered the nation’s growth in the past, has increased. To meet such expectations and anticipation of the general public, realization of high level of growth with sustained economic and political stability is imperative. But the government does not seem to have been moving at the desired pace. As per the current scenario of the nation, it is evident that, many of the economic and political reforms, some of which have potential of substantial progress, have either been stalled or abandoned or are advancing at a moderate pace. The implementation and operationalization of these reforms, that have created high expectations of tangible progress among the Nepalese citizens, is very dilatory.

Firstly, it has been more than a decade since the political parties of Nepal consented on the adaptation of federal system of governance. However, the new constitution was promulgated only three years ago on September 2015. Additionally, it took two years for the government to table two imperative bills – the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission Bill and the Inter-Governmental Fiscal Arrangement Bills – in parliament. Today, more than a year has passed and Nepal still hasn’t fully figured out the operationalization of federal structure of governance. The formulation of policies, plans, programs and budget that aids the federal system is still not in force, leading towards uncertainty about the role and power of the three tiers of government. Many have accused the central government of not transferring power to lower structures of federal unit. This portrays that the new authority in the nation has not been able to decipher the spirit of federalism as revered in the constitution. This has raised doubt among the citizens about the intention of central government in making federalism a success.

Secondly, the citizens perceive the delay in amendment of various laws, policies and regulations as a negligence on the part of the legislature and the government. The fiscal budget of 2014/15 stated that around three dozen laws needs to be amended as well as introduced in order to address the various issues related to fundamental rights, inducive business environment, and attracting investment in the country. It also stressed upon the reforms required in administrative sector of government.Subsequently, some of the bills were amended and approved from the Parliament.However, even after four years, some crucial economic and financial acts such as Industrial Enterprise Act and Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act that were to be amended or introduced are yet to be tabled and endorsed by the Parliament. Moreover, after adaptation of the new constitution, out of 339 laws only 194 laws have been amended so far. The laws remaining to be amended also constitutes of laws that contradicts with the new constitution. A further delay in its amendment is likely to complicate the new governance process. People believe that without passing these imperative laws, our economy cannot take structural leaps.

Thirdly, the citizens are highly concerned about the delayed priority projects of the nation such as Sikta irrigation project and Melamchi Drinking Water Project. Persistent deferrals, deadline extensions, inconsistencies and negligence of these projects have hindered the achievement of development goals. Only seven out of twenty-one national pride projects have achieved fifty percent progress. Some of these projects mentioned above have already surpassed their completion deadline.The delay in completion of these projects are likely to have huge implication in the economy, as people cannot derive the benefits that these developments would provide. This also has been a major obstruction in growth of productive sectors of the economy.

Such scenario depicts that the political and economic transformation in Nepal is in an eluded state. The government also has not been able to take any measure that could enhance the productivity of national economy. The economic growth rate of Nepal over the past decade has been hovering around 4%, and even in this fiscal year it is not likely to meet the government proposed target of 8%.

It is evident that the government is moving at a very slow pace, while the expectations of the people are rising rapidly. Even those groups who advocated for the new governance structure are not satisfied with the performance of the government and have been criticizing its failure. This could weaken people’s hopes in the current government. If the government does not start acting accordingly, it could result in widespread loss of confidence, which may make it harder for established systems to deal with the problems that persists within the national boundaries. So, it is the need of the hour to address the aspirations of the general public and work towards a more systematic reform process.