Confused Commoners

Parties are as polarized as they were before on question of budget and formation of a new government confusing the hard-pressed commoners very much. Not much different is the state of around 90 percent of some 600 CA members, said to be privileged, w

Oct. 11, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No.-09 Oct. -08-2010(Ashwin 22, 2067)

It seems Nepalese are now losing their patience to wait for their leaders to find  solution to the outstanding political issues, which would also free them, hopefully, to concentrate on so far ignored economic problems. In fact, people have no where to look to for relief. Economy is in an unprecedented mess and leader-created political problems appear insolvable. Deals are struck not to resolve issues but to further confuse people and make issues all the more complex. The deal struck on 29th of Jestha, which facilitated extension of constituent assembly term by one year, could not be executed as neither Prime Minister Nepal resigned nor the Maoists budged an inch to fulfill the commitments agreed upon in the three-point tripartite agreement. While the Maoists wanted Mr. Nepal to resign first, the other two parties in the deal (NC and UML) and those enjoying power wanted the ex rebels to fulfill their commitment before the resignation of government. After weeks of unrest and confusion, Mr.Nepal gave in to the pressure from outside and from within his own party, mainly by a strong fraction of the party led by party president J. N. Khanal who wanted a national unity government to prepare new constitution and take the peace process to a logical end.Three months have passed since Madhav Nepal resigned and successive rounds of election in the legislative parliament have remained inconclusive.Khanal's candidacy was withdrawn before the voting commenced as he could not garner the support of two-thirds parliamentarians, a condition set by his party for him to get into the race. Maoist chairman Prachanda and NC leader Poudyal fought inconclusive electoral battles till the seventh round held on 7th of September. Tired of the futile electoral exercise and several rounds of fruitless and undependable so called negotiation with leaders of Madhes-based parties to form a majority government Prachanda inked a three point deal with Khanal of UML, which, among others, required Prachanda to opt out from the priministerial race to facilitate formation of a unity government. Amidst controversy about the deal and doubts whether Prachanda would really opt out of the race, the two parties signed another four-point agreement cementing the earlier deal. In Keeping with the spirit of the deals, Maoists withdrew their candidate before voting for the eighth round commenced on the26th of September leaving Poudyal alone in the race to lose election one more time. People desperately wanting a government have taken the recent two deals in a positive manner but to their utter bewilderment some top UML leaders have not spoken favourly of the deals, let alone NC that has described the agreements struck between the two parties as a conspiratorial move. These divergent views rule out the possibility of a national unity government in the near future. Too much cold water is being thrown on confused commoners.

Nepal's economy is in an unprecedented mess. Double digit inflation is continuing since last two years, the country saw an astonishing negative balance of payment of around Rs.17 billion, trade deficit reached a-never-before level of 26 percent of GDP and everything is in short supply except uncollected stinking garbage and dust. Prices are rising and will continue to do so in keeping with IMF prediction that prices of oil and non-oil products will rise by about 22 and 16 percent, respectively, in 2010.Economies face ups and downs occasionally as is being witnessed all over the world. The global recession that started towards the end of 2007 is not over yet. A relapse can not be totally ruled out at least in the US and some parts of Europe. Greece is in trouble, so is the situation in Ireland and soaring budget deficit has become a major problem for the new government of David Cameron in UK.The striking difference between us and others is that while others confront the problems with required measures, in our case the problems remain unattended and ignored. Till date, on the pretext of political problems of serious magnitude, leaders have ignored economic problems affecting day to day life of the commoner. We are already into the third month of the fiscal year without a budget and the legislative assembly- approved sum, one-third of the last fiscal year's   total, is about to be exhausted. Concerned officials of Nepal Government have made it clear that it would be difficult to pay salaries to civil servants if the budget was not passed by mid-November. As in the past, economic activities are slacking and it may be difficult to achieve the growth rate of last year, a disappointing 3.5 percent, despite expected good performance of agriculture this year. It may be noted that in the 75 days of the current fiscal year only a paltry sum of Rs.160 million has been spent under development expenditure head. In the last couple of years, rate of growth of revenue has been more than the growth rate of capital expenditure showing increased level of public consumption, which is not desirable. As a result of impressive revenue collection in the last couple of years, government could save something each year (revenue surplus) for development activities, after meeting recurrent expenditure and debt obligations. As a proportion of GDP, revenue collection had reached 15 percent in 2066\2067, which is encouraging. In the initial period of this fiscal year, however, revenue collection is far from satisfactory.PM Nepal is trying to bring the full budget for the current fiscal year but the major parties do not seem to be ready for unconditional approval. People want a new PM soon so that the new government could present the new budget. This does not look likely as the major parties are polls apart on the question of forming a new government. Economically, the commoners are bound to suffer more in days ahead.

Commoners of Nepal thought that the deal signed between the two left parties and flexibility shown by Maoist chairperson on issues of army integration would facilitate formation of a unity government which would conclude the peace process in a meaningful manner. Contrasting views coming from a section of UML and NC leader Poudyal, the sole contender in the PM race, accusing Maoist chairperson Prachand and Khanal of UML of merely paying lip service to national consensus, have more or less consigned the three- point deal to dust. Castigating the deal as an attempt to sideline NC, Poudyal appears rhino-skinned in that he intends to remain in the race, with full backing of his newly-elected NC president, despite repeated mauling of his act by the Legislative Assembly.  PM Nepal's recent observation that Poudyal need not withdraw from the race seems to have further strengthened his stand and the NC leader is not likely to withdraw unless the top job that Mr. Poudyal is desperately wanting is offered to him.Parties are as polarized as they were before on question of budget and formation of a new government confusing the hard-pressed commoners very much. Not much different is the state of around 90 percent of some 600 CA members, said to be privileged, who have to walk the line drawn by their leaders not knowing what their leaders are up to and whose tune their masters are dancing to. The confused Nepali commoners should be happy that they are on the same boat with majority of CA members as far as political confusion is concerned.
Dr Rawal is a CA member and former governor of Nepal Rastra Bank



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