Not many had hoped that closer of CA business for some time would bring quarreling leaders around the table to reach consensus on all the disputed issues but commoners had also not thought that the situation would further deteriorate. It may be noted that CA had already embarked upon majority-based process of constitution preparation about two months ago, which was adjourned mainly on the threat- mixed request of the opposition parties and sincere suggestion of civil society leaders. Nonpolitical people also thought that there was no harm in stopping the work to facilitate dialogue amongst vacillating political leaders. This stoppage of House business, however, failed to produce any positive results because the opposition parties led by Prachanda have announced their second phase of protest programmes and leaders belonging to major parties are not likely to budge an inch from their respective stands on major issues. Frustrated that the intended result-oriented dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties could not take place during the last several weeks when CA was closed, Chairman Nembang summoned the CA for April 6.This decision of his, however, was not without prior cautioning and warning. Amongst contentious issues, it looks increasingly difficult to forge consensus on the much debated issue of state restructuring, which can be resolved through voting either in CA or putting it to referendum. Referendum on the contentious issues appears the most viable solution because it would be nonsensical to agitate against the verdict of the sovereign people of Nepal. Pending people’s verdict on such sensitive issues, it would be wise not to reach any conclusion unilaterally by the ruling parties, not at all by taking resort to voting in CA.Declaration of a draft constitution and announcement of dates for referendum could be done together anytime in the next couple of weeks. It would be unwise to give the agitating alliance a chance for them to get into violent agitation. Although the loosely knitted current alliance of the opposition parties may not last long, one can see strong likelihood of currently splintered Maoists coming under a single umbrella for further agitation because shrewd Parchanda, after the electoral debacle and waning public support for the agitation, knows something has to be done to remain in limelight. The setbacks that Maoists have suffered in recent times may facilitate their unification because it is seen elsewhere also that radical groups waging war independently tend to come together when hit hard by rival forces. For example, Boko Haram, currently dislodged from a number of northeastern towns in Nigeria, has pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has readily accepted the pledge. Worthy of mention is the fact that ISIS, exacting merciless vengeance against anyone opposed to it, has also suffered major setbacks recently, despite getting financial support from a score of sources and forcibly getting students and children to join their force. These two ruthless movements have swiftly joined hands at a time when both have suffered setbacks on the battlefield. It may also be noted that ISIS and Boko Haram have killed thousands of innocent people on either side of the Red Sea. What these radical outfits are doing far away from Nepal is reminiscent of what Maoists did to garner financial resources and forceful recruitment of teens into their force. These radical outfits may have learnt something from our Maoists’ deeds in the past but let us hope that what is currently done in Iraq, Libya, Syria,Nigeria,etc is not tried again by our people here. Let us make sure that atrocities committed in the past do not recur and the existing instable situation does not last long because we are already late to learn from other countries, more specifically from our neighbours, how leaders there have been giving top priority to economic agendas.
Our neighbours (China and India) are now not only big political powers but global economic power as well. China has leapfrogged many countries in recent times to become the second largest economy and India is also likely to climb the ladder of economic prosperity in an accelerated manner. India has recently made public its annual budget with a total outlay of Indian Rs.17 77 477 crore. The first full budget of the Modi government seeks to win back investment and boost growth mainly through massive investment in infrastructure. Claiming that inflation has been conquered and growth kick-started, some states such as Bihar and West Bengal have been promised special financial assistance. Increase in sales tax and excise may hurt consumers but the new wealth to be created would definitely help the BJP government launch projects to benefit the poor and the needy. China, probably worried by the hugely export-based growth of the past and environmental degradation taking place there, has decided to have 7 percent growth, the lowest in fifteen years. This lower growth target has also something to do with the headwind that the Chinese economy is currently facing and the attempt of leadership there to rebalance the economy, making it more consumption and service oriented. If the idea is to shift to a growth model driven by domestic demand, observers believe that China will have to actualize the promised 40 percent hike in minimum wages, which could also help narrow the existing wealth gap there.
Unlike encouraging signs seen in the two economies on our north and south, it is very difficult to scout any semblance of positivity in Nepal’s ailing economy. While our exports are at the rock bottom, imports have sky rocketed: ten times more than our exports. Import of iron and still stands second on the list of imported items, while it tops the list on the export front. There is no need to be unhappy about our significant trade in iron and steel, entirely imported, if the value addition, said to be between 15 to 30 percent, is satisfactory.Further,in keeping with the past, capital expenditure is continuing to move at snail’s pace. Data released show that only Rs.25 billion 53 crore has been spent in the last eight months against Rs. 116 billion set aside under the capital expenditure head. Finance minister Mahat and newly appointed governor Nepal may wish to spend some time together to brood over utilization of some Rs. 76 billion lying idle with the central bank,Rs.52 billion 75 crore to be raised as internal debt and Rs.10 billion as over drat from the monetary authority. These three put together approximate Rs. 138 billion, which would be very difficult to spend productively, given the slow progress on the capital expenditure front. This low capital expenditure has also resulted in unsatisfactory mobilization of foreign loans and grants, which put together approximate Rs.15.5 billion in the first eight months of the current fiscal year as against the combined annual target of Rs.122.52 billion. The duo may also be unhappy to see almost zero progress on the budgetary provision that youths and small entrepreneurs engaged in commercial agriculture will be provided loans at 6 percent.Mahat has tried to support agriculture, power and tourism through tax cuts and subsidy in the current budget but is difficult to say whether he is monitoring the actualization of different provisions so beautifully made in the budget. Along with other leaders, it is likely that a noted leader and a prominent economist Dr. Mahat is also distracted from his main job intermittently by the political instability that has engulfed the nation since long.Nembang did good by postponing the CA business for a week after it met briefly on April 6 basically to mourn the sad demise of CA member and UML politburo member Ramnath Dhakal and ex CA member of NC Mahendra Yadav.Let the rifting parties engage in intense negotiation to achieve in seven days what has not been possible till date so that the rift-augmenting process is not taken resort to in CA by somewhat tired- looking ruling party leaders and Prachanda does not have to go for highly counterproductive bandhs and strikes time and again. Leaders are remembered for their positive contribution to their nations like Lee Kuwan Yew who is respected by the whole world and revered by the Singaporeans for transforming the tiny nation from an economic backwater into one of the most prosperous economies of the world in three decades. The whole world mourned the death on March 23 of the ailing leader who put prosperity of his nation above everything else.