Concentrate on the Economy

Therefore, the situation warrants his serious attention and action on the more or less ruined economy, some good work where in will not only do well to the people but also help salvage Bhattari’s eroding image.<br>Dr. Tilak Rawal

Jan. 15, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-13 Jan. 13 -2012 (Poush 29,2068)<BR>

Many of us were happy to see Dr. Bhattari as Prime Minister of this country because we thought the poor would get some economic relief and works related to peace and constitution would proceed satisfactorily under him.Expectedly,peace related work gained some momentum and unresolved issues of dispute began to be resolved. Special Committee (for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants) and dispute resolution subcommittee of Constituent Assembly headed by Prachanda achieved considerable progress in their respective areas. Although major credit would go to Prachanda and other leaders of major political parties, Prime Minister would also get some credit for the positive work had it proceeded unobstructed. Acute factionalism in UCPN Maoist and the recent locking of horns by NC with the Maoists on serious constitutional issues has for the time being ruined the prospect of further work on peace and constitution. People at large have taken serious exception to this backtracking by political leaders. The Central Committee meeting of the Maoist, which started towards the end of the year, saw mudslinging and trading of accusations between the two groups.Baidya,who often talks of launching a fresh revolt, must have made some calculation as to how much support will he  get in this conflict-devastated  Nepal desperately needing peace and stability. His arrogance, however, is likely to negatively impact peace and constitution writing work. Of late, however, the new row between UCPN Maoist and NC seems to be more detrimental than Baidya’s adamancy as far as peace and constitution writing is concerned.

Bhattari led government has suffered two more setbacks related to the decision to induct three thousand youths from the Madhesi community and the next one being the plea, both from the government and the legislature parliament, to the Supreme Court regarding its earlier verdict that bared CA extension beyond May 28, 2012.While SC stopped recruitment, saying it is against the spirit of the constitution, it also refused to register the appeal for reviewing its earlier decision on extension. It will be unwise for the two increasingly unpopular bodies (government and the assembly) to lock horns on this issue with not so unpopular apex court. Equally disappointing is the conduct and behavior of Bhattari’s ministers about whom a lot is said and written. Small wonder people think corruption is on the rise in Nepal, states a survey report of Transparency International conducted in six South Asian countries.Bhattari is still not considered a corrupt person but the helplessness shown by him in checking corrupt activities of his colleagues has invited serious criticism of him.Further,with the row in his party still unsettled even after numerous central committee meetings and Nepali Congress and the Maoist Party allegedly back tracking on issues such as the system of governance (said to have been settled along French model) and other, the Constituent Assembly has amended its job calendar  passed by it only a month ago. Under no circumstance, it is crystal clear, peace and constitution and governance (current cabinet) front will bring prime minister any credit. Therefore, the situation warrants his serious attention and action on the more or less ruined economy, some good work where in will not only do well to the people but also help salvage Bhattari’s eroding image.

Albeit little lata, prime minister has begun to speak about the need to improve the state of the economy. If he is serious about it, he will find before him more than a dozen areas within the economy to concentrate on. Ever deteriorating trade balance, high level of inflation and shameful supply position of drinking water, electricity and petroleum products offer an opportunity for anyone in position and serious about the nation and the economy. No one can blame Bhattari for giving go-ahead signal to the concerned for hiking electricity tariff by twenty percent(now stayed by the court) but the Wiseman should not forget that any hike in price should be matched by some improvement in supply if the idea at all is to get some credit.However, it is difficult to say how will any improvement in electricity supply happen especially when government’s decision to install thermal plant has met with strong resistance from parties and parliamentarians. It may be recalled that Prachanda as prime minister and Bharat Mohan as deputy pm at two different points in time had vowed to do away with power outage but what they delivered is before every one of us facing increasing hours of load shedding today. This scribe on a number of occasions in the parliament had urged those at the helm of affairs to come up with short run measure to improve the supply and prepare long term energy policy taking full cognizance of priority given by government of India to hydro, solar and nuclear energy development. Needless to say that economic problems, if ignored for long, cause accidents of political nature. It is widely feared that the current debt crisis in Europe, if left unresolved for long, could provoke civil war in EU which appears on the verge of breaking. It may also be noted that recent improvement in the US economy is said to have increased Obama’s chance of getting reelected as president in 2012.Who knows US could reemerge as locomotive for global growth in 2012.Further,look at the attention paid by Chinese authorities to contain inflation, which is blamed on  hike in pork meet price there. It may not be out of place to state that China where per capita pork consumption is 35 kg, is home to half the global pig population. It has been stated umpteen times that we have not been able to take benefit from the remarkable economic progress of the two nations on our north and south, while the rest of the world has done so. It may also be remembered that even when major economies all over the world went into recession, China and India did not slide into a state of serious recession. On the contrary, they helped moderate its effect elsewhere. What Nepal needs is competent sales persons to persuade countries like India to help us in a  generous and magnanimous fashion. Nepal should be able to benefit from the recent decision of government of India to withdraw special additional duty on exports from Nepal. Agreement between the two countries on avoidance of double taxation is also a positive development. Get resources and concentrate on the economy if you do not want to be branded a total flop, prime Minister.

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