The much appreciated rigid stance of the Supreme Court on the Constituent Assembly tenure extension, ordering the concerned that it cannot go beyond 27th of May, has left major political parties with no option but to expedite the peace process and come up with some kind of a constitution, probably not a complete one, by that time. With the Special Committee’s decision of May 10th, former Maoist combatants, their weapons and the cantonments have come under the control of Nepal Army. The encouraging factor here is that the decision has been executed without much resistance. Let us hope that no Maoist combatant remains uncared for in a couple of weeks’ time, if not in days. Another positive development that has ended the five-year-long debate amongst political parties is their decision to form the much talked about two commissions on truth and reconciliation and on inquiry into disappearances. Major political parties look serious at last and peace and constitution preparation work will soon see a positive conclusion provided the factionalism within UCPN-Maoist does not stand as an impediment. With two camps within the party organizing separate gatherings and the leaders (this time Prachanda and Baburam on one side and Kiran on the other as usual) trading accusations in an unprecedented manner, the current intra-party feud looks to be really serious.It may be mentioned that Kiran’s faction has condemned the Special Committee’s decision in strong words, despite warm reception of NA teams by Maoist combatants in different cantonments. Hope Prachanda succeeds in resolving the crisis in his party without letting it jeopardize peace and constitution, for which he has publicly vowed several times to make any kind of sacrifice. Deservedly, major chunk of the credit for the good work should go to him. There will be several claimants but the Supreme Court, expected to remain silent, should not be forgotten followed by top leaders of NC and UML. Prime Minister Bhattari should also be given credit for showing interest and taking initiative under the guidance of top leaders, more specifically that of Prachanda on peace related matters. Hope staging chakkajam, organizing torch rally and burning effigies of Dahal and Bhattari, accusing them of betraying the revolution, by the hardliners does not last long. People do not want leaders to backtrack on the peace process, which many of us think has reached an irreversible point. The two- day sojourn of top leaders in Hattiban where they are said to have made a good progress on the contentious issues related to the constitution, has provided people with a welcome breath of fresh air in the dust-filled Valley. Kiran’s presence at Hattiban and decisions by a large number of combatants to opt for retirement could also be taken as a positive development.
Another positive development people have begun to appreciate relates to the expansion of roads led by the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Center (KUTDC) in cooperation with traffic police and the Department of Roads. The work done so far is a glaring example of the fact that if local bodies and concerned departments proceed with sincerity, things can move ahead irrespective of which party or individual is leading the government. Looking at the highly satisfactory work accomplished so far, one finds no reason not to believe KUTDC’s plan of broadening 440 kilometers of valley roads in two years. Those rendered homeless in the process, however, will have to be looked at with special sympathy. Of late, Prime Minister Bhattarai is reported to be apprising himself of the progress achieved and issuing instructions to the concerned at regular intervals. Hope his new-found love for the project is not just an effort to earn some credit from the good work conceived much before he headed the current government some seven months ago. The desire to win some credit from the rare good work could be found in some other ministers who may have something to do with the project even in a remote way. Hope Bhattarai’s support and encouragement in this case will encourage others also to go for exemplary works of this kind.
Whatever little credit the Prime Minister earns from the above is likely to be more than neutralized by his failure to stir the stagnating economy, and provide relief to the needy, despite his repeated commitments. Repeated hike in prices of petroleum products have not led to any mention worthy improvement in the supply of the same: people still have to wait for weeks to get a cylinder of cooking gas. Hope the distribution of LPG consumer cards to people eases the problem. Likewise, export/ import ratio has deteriorated, trade deficit is increasing at an alarming rate and total merchandise exports can fund only 85.6 percent of the import of petroleum products. More disappointing is the performance of government in relation to expenditure management. It may be noted that capital expenditure accounts for only 8.8 percent of the combined total of recurrent and capital expenditure. By Finance Ministry’s own admission, by the end of the ninth month of the current fiscal year, capital expenditure accounted for only 31percent of the budgeted amount of Rs.73 billion under this head. Huge cash surplus amounting to around Rs 31 billion is lying with Nepal Rastra Bank. Similarly, the rate of increase in total credit disbursement has gone down and so has flow of credit to the private sector. Financial institutions are reported to have parked with the central bank around Rs. 33 billion more than what is required by the monetary authority as cash reserve ratio. Credit deposit ratio (CD ratio) of the banking system currently is below the recently lowered ratio of 80 percent. Both fiscal and monetary policies do not seem to be contributing towards galvanizing the ailing economy. Capital market is showing encouraging symptoms of late, probably buoyed by news of positive development on the political front, after remaining sluggish for a prolonged period of time. A consistent upward trend in the capital market, however, will need further work on the peace and stability front. Rampant corruption in the country has discredited the government, more specifically its leader who has failed to initiate any substantial action, despite his repeated utterances over time to do so. Action taken by the Prime Minister are few and far away and the general impression amongst the people is that a few lightweight petty thieves have been punished but the heavyweight dacoits robbing this poorest South Asian country are left untouched, creating doubts in people’s minds about his commitment and integrity. What should not be forgotten is the fact that agencies studying and examining the extent of corruption have found Nepal as one of the most corrupt nations and there are no signs of it going down as it remains unabated in this country.